Dredge Money Falls Shortby Venice Buhain
Longview, WA, The Daily News, February 2, 2005
A federal spending bill sent Wednesday to President Bush includes $15 million to deepen the Columbia River shipping channel, but the appropriation won't be enough for the Army Corps of Engineers to meet its goal of finishing the project by the end of 2007.
"We probably asked for more, and it got cut," said Mark Dasso, the corps' project manager. "Our plan was to do it in two years, but we need a lot more than $15 million."
Ports between Portland and the mouth of the Columbia River have long sought to deepen the channel from 40 feet to 43 feet to accommodate bigger ships.
Washington and Oregon have committed a combined $55.4 million, and work began in June on the 102-mile project using the state funds and a $9 million federal appropriation.
Even with another $15 million from the Energy and Water Appropriations Act of 2006, the project will need an estimated $65 million more to complete.
The pace of the work will depend on how much money Congress appropriates each year, Dasso said. "We can use whatever they give us," he said.
U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, said it's unlikely Congress, faced with budget constraints and a long list of projects, will furnish the rest of the money next year.
"The important thing is that as shipping companies make decisions where to dock and where to base operations, we've got to show a concrete commitment and progress on this project," he said. "It's just not realistic to get the full project in one bite."
The $15 million figure had been in drafts of the bill as it made its way through Congress. The U.S. House on Wednesday gave final approval to a spending plan already approved by the Senate.
Longview port director Ken O'Hollaren, president of the Columbia River Channel Coalition, said the funding shows Congress supports the project.
"It is very significant. It's an increase over this year's appropriation," he said. "This project continues to have a very high priority."
The ports of Longview, Kalama, Woodland, St. Helens, Vancouver and Portland belong to the coalition.
According to the Port of Portland, a potash exporter, Canpotex, recently committed investing $12 million in facilities at the port based in part on the promise of a deeper channel.
Dasso said about 28 miles of the channel will be deepened by the end of this year.
For $15 million, another 10 to 20 miles of the river could deepened, he said.
The Energy and Water Appropriations Act also includes $17 million to repair the South Jetty at the mouth of the Columbia River.
The corps estimates shoring up the mound of rocks that extends into the ocean on the Oregon side will cost $10 million to $20 million.
Repairs on the North Jetty, funded by Congress last year, may be completed late next week, the corps' jetty project manager, Lance Helwig, said Wednesday.
The jetties shelter the river's entrance and funnel the flow of the river, flushing sediment out to sea, instead of piling up at the mouth and blocking ships.
Baird and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., also announced they obtained $1.2 million for dredging at the ports of Chinook and Ilwaco.
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