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Bush Budget Slashes Dredging Funds

by Don Jenkins
The Daily News, February 8, 2006

Port of Longview director Ken O'Hollaren said Tuesday he's pleased that President Bush's fiscal year 2007 budget proposal includes $15 million for deepening the Columbia River, even though it's less than half the amount Lower Columbia ports wanted.

"The point is," O'Hollaren said, "the project is moving forward."

The ports support deepening 102 miles of the river channel from the Pacific Ocean to the Portland-Vancouver area from 40 feet to 43 feet to handle heavier ships. Environmental groups oppose the project.

The Army Corps of Engineers dredged 28 miles last year and plan to deepen another 30 miles this year with $15 million Congress appropriated for fiscal year 2006, corps spokeswoman Heidi Helwig said.

The corps, however, estimates it will need another $65 million to finish the project.

The ports and the governors of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana asked the Bush administration for $40 million in fiscal year 2007 --- as much money as the corps could logistically spend in one year on the project.

A $40 million appropriation also would position the corps to finish the project by the end of 2008 --- a year later than the corps once planned. O'Hollaren, president of the six-port Columbia River Channel Deepening Coalition, agreed that at $15 million a year, the project could take several more years to finish.

At least shipping companies know the Bush administration remains committed to the project, and port officials will lobby lawmakers to appropriate more than $15 million, he said.

"We hope to add to that amount once congressional appropriations start in earnest in the spring," O'Hollaren said.

U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, said Northwest lawmakers will "fight vigorously to hold ($15 million) as a base and maybe add something to it."

"Obviously, we'd like more, and we'll pursue more, but $15 million as a minimum is not too bad."

Don Jenkins
Bush Budget Slashes Dredging Funds
The Daily News, February 8, 2006

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