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Port of Lewiston Traffic Sluggish

by Elaine Williams
Lewiston Tribune, January 16, 2014

Container shipments continue to lag for 5th year

Container shipping at the Port of Lewiston continued a slump in 2013.

The port moved 4,439 containers in 2013, the fifth consecutive year the number has been less than 5,000, according to numbers released at the port commission's meeting Wednesday.

Port Manager David Doeringsfeld offered no explanation for the trend and instead focused on how the drop in volume was just 5 percent compared with 2012.

"I don't think there are any general conclusions to be made," he said.

Container shipping at the Port of Lewiston peaked from 1995 to 2000, when the port was moving more than 15,000 containers annually. Its slimmest year in the period that began in 1991 was 2011, when the number sank to 3,653.

Doeringsfeld provided little insight into what might happen this year. Some dried pea and lentil growers sat on their product at the end of the year, he said.

One promising sign is that shipping company Hanjin continues to schedule vessels at the Port of Portland. The shipper previously announced it was leaving the port this month. It handles about 80 percent of the containers that go through Portland, Ore., and about 15 percent of those moving through Lewiston.

The reduced volumes will make it tougher for the Port of Lewiston to meet goals it has set for its container dock, which it recently extended. The port won a $1.3 million federal grant for the $2.9 million project, estimating the expansion would generate 48 jobs by 2023 if container volume grew to 16,000 per year.

The port runs the container yard and relies on the revenue to help pay for its day-to-day operations.

Other river cargo that originates at the Port of Lewiston fared better. Bulk wheat and barley shipments trended closer to a high of 952,599 tons in 1995. A total of 706,994 tons of grain were shipped through the Lewis-Clark Terminal in 2013. The low was 382,606 tons in 2008.

The solid performance of the terminal is due to a combination of good prices and crops as well as customer loyalty, said terminal Manager Arvid Lyons.

In other business, the port held a public hearing on a potential sale of the city of Lewiston garbage transfer station site in North Lewiston to the city for $395,039.

The deal could help Inland Auto Glass, a business that has considered buying a nearby lot to construct a 16,000-square-foot building to stage projects for out-of-town clients.

Those plans, however, were slowed because the property is accessed from Colonel Wright Way, a street that leads from State Highway 128 to the transfer station. So far, Inland Auto Glass hasn't been able to obtain a building permit because Colonel Wright Way is a port road and not considered a public right of way.

If the city purchases the transfer station property it would assume responsibility for the street, including $200,000 in upgrades that are being deducted from the city's purchase price.

Where Inland Auto Glass stands on the proposal isn't clear. No one from the business attended Wednesday's meeting and the business didn't return a phone call from the Tribune.

Even if Inland Auto Glass has lost interest, Doeringsfeld said the city of Lewiston deal still makes sense because it improves the viability of land along Colonel Wright Way for other developers.

The port commissioners also briefly discussed switching port district boundaries to match those of the Nez Perce County commissioners before tabling the issue to a future meeting.

The Nez Perce County commissioners changed the boundaries of their three districts in 2012. The port didn't follow suit.

Although port commission boundaries have traditionally copied those of county commissioners, Doeringsfeld said the practice isn't required by law.

Had the port adopted the new boundaries in 2012, port Commissioner Mary Hasenoehrl, who represents District 2, would have been living in District 3, the same district as port Commissioner Jerry Klemm. Since the commissioners made no adjustments, Hasenoehrl was able to run in District 2.

Port commissioners have to reside in their district at the time of the election. After that, Doeringsfeld said they can keep their seats until the end of their six-year terms if they move to another commissioner's district, but not if they leave Nez Perce County.

Elaine Williams
Port of Lewiston Traffic Sluggish
Lewiston Tribune, January 16, 2014

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