First Year of Columbia Dredging
by Don Jenkins
A dredge will finish pumping sand dredged from the Columbia River onto Port of Vancouver property during the first week of January, finishing the first phase of a multiyear project to deepen the shipping channel, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"After 15 years just to start dredging, it's almost like a dream to hear they finished deepening more than 25 percent of the channel in less than a year," Longview port director Ken O'Hollaren said in a statement prepared by the Columbia River Channel Coalition.
Lower Columbia ports pushed for deepening the channel from 40 to 43 feet so that large ships can load to their full capacity. Environmental groups oppose disturbing the riverbed and stockpiling the sand onshore, and they still are battling the project in federal court.
Last week, Illinois-based Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. completed deepening 28 miles of the 103-mile channel.
The company, which has an $8.7 million contract, removed 2.6 million cubic yards of sand to deepen 18 miles near the mouth of the river and another 10 miles in the Portland-Vancouver area.
The federal government recently appropriated $15 million to pay for dredging next year. The corps has not announced where dredging will occur or how many miles it expects to deepen.
Even with the additional money, the corps estimates finishing the project will take another $65 million.
Four western governors recently asked the federal government to speed up funding.
Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and Montana Gov. Brian Schweiter signed a Dec. 2 letter to the Bush administration's budget director, Joshua Bolten, asking that the president include $40 million for dredging in his 2007 fiscal year budget request to Congress.
"If $40 million were appropriated for FY 2007, it would be reasonable to expect that the balance could be secured in FY 2008 --- finishing the project and delivering its transportation cost savings to U.S. exporters," the governors wrote.
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