Growers Building Insurance on Snake Riverby Wendy Culverwell, Herald staff writer
Tri-City Herald, February 8, 2000
A new grain elevator being built in Franklin County will help preserve river access to Portland and international markets should the four lower Snake River dams be breached.
Two of the region's major grain cooperatives are teaming with Tidewater Holdings Inc., a major barging company, to build the $4 million facility. Construction has begun on a six-acre site on the Snake River, just north of the Highway 12 bridges near Pasco.
The elevator is being built near trucking and rail lines on land owned by Tidewater, although the emphasis will be on shipping grain on barges. It will have four 75,000-bushel tanks and one 200,000 bushel tank.
The companies involved are Northwest Grain Growers Inc. of Walla Walla, Central Washington Grain Growers Inc. of Waterville and Tidewater Holdings Inc. of Vancouver. Together, they will operate the elevator as Tri-Cities Grain LLC.
Damon Filan of Pasco's Continental Grain Co. was hired as manager.
The elevator should open for business by early summer, said Dave Gordon, general manager of Northwest Grain Growers. Gordon said Walla Walla grain growers naturally hope the dams won't be breached but have to consider the possibility.
Growers depend on an elevator in the northern end of the county that is upriver from Ice Harbor Dam, the Snake River dam closest to the Tri-Cities.
Some environmentalists want all four Snake River dams - Lower Granite, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Ice Harbor - removed in an attempt to improve salmon survival between the ocean and spawning grounds.
"If our dams are removed, our grain from the north end of the county will have to go to the Tri-Cities," Gordon said.
He characterized the Pasco operation as a smaller facility with limited storage. It is designed as a "put through" elevator, where incoming grain quickly will be loaded onto barges and sent on down the river.
Gordon said the elevator will accept grain both from area growers and from operations that sell to Tri-Cities Grain. The company will sell primarily to exporters.
Central Washington Grain Growers in Waterville is not directly affected by proposed dam breaching because it ships a majority of its product to ports at Kalama and Portland by rail, said John Anderson, general manager.
However, a small amount of grain from north-central Washington is trucked to the Tri-Cities and put on barges. How much is trucked to barge terminals depends on the cost of shipping by rail.
The new grain elevator offers the Central Washington cooperative the option of diverting more grain from rail if there is a price advantage to going on the water, Anderson said.
"This gives us more flexibility," he said.
He explained that although railroad shipping costs have been fairly consistent for a decade, they now are closer to trucking and barging costs. A small change could mean a significant change in the way inland farmers move grain to market.
Anderson said officials at Central Washington were interested in the new elevator's proximity to rail and land routes and hope to see the facility develop those connections.
Tidewater Holdings Inc. bills itself as the largest tug and barge company west of the Mississippi.
At the height wheat harvest, the company hauls 500,000 tons of grain a month down the Snake and Columbia rivers. Its barges also haul petroleum products, wood chips, garbage and shipping containers between the inland port of Lewiston, Idaho, and Portland.
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