Bush Keeps Dredge Promiseby Pat Forgey
Longview, WA, The Daily News, February 8, 2005
President Bush's proposed 2006 budget includes $15 million for deepening the Columbia River, fulfilling the president's fall campaign pledge to fund the project.
Shipping advocates welcomed the proposal, which marks the first time the project has been included in the president's proposed budget.
"We're very pleased," said Ken O'Hollaren, executive director of the Port of Longview. "That's the first time that had really happened."
The project would deepen the river's shipping channel from 40 feet to 43 feet deep, work lower river ports say is essential to keeping them competitive.
O'Hollaren said the ports hope to win $40 million this year to make significant progress on the dredging and associated environmental improvements in the next year. The project has been studied for more than a decade.
"We'd like to see more, obviously, we'd like to see more to keep it on track," he said.
The real significance of the money proposed Monday is the commitment it shows to the $150.5 million project by the federal government, he said.
It would be cheaper to deepen the channel over two years instead of spreading the work out over a number of years, said Dave Hunt, executive director of the Columbia River Channel Coalition, a group of ports and other representatives lobbying for the project.
Even when the president's budget proposed no money for the project, ports and the Northwest Congressional delegations have successfully obtained funding for the project in the past several years. O'Hollaren said they'll be lobbying hard to repeat that success.
"We're going to work to see that it happens again," he said.
Wheat and other farmers from eastern Oregon and Washington, as well as Idaho and Montana export their product through Columbia River ports, mostly Portland, Vancouver and Kalama, broadening the political support for the costly project.
Jeff Smith of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Columbia River District Council said his members were excited about the project because of the economic benefits it would provide to the region.
"Columbia River commerce provides 40,000 good jobs averaging $46,000 per year, which is so important for our high unemployment region," he said.
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