Port of Seattle Looks Toward Moses Lake
by Lynne Lynch
Columbia Basin Herald, June 24, 2009
MOSES LAKE - Grant County's recently restored commercial air service and the planned extension of the Northern Columbia Basin Railroad Project are valuable to the Port of Seattle.
It's because the Port of Seattle has a strong competitor for cargo traffic and jobs in Central Washington, the new Port of Prince Rupert in Canada.
The Port of Prince Rupert is being developed to bring products from British Columbia to the American Midwest quickly, Port of Seattle Commission President Bill Bryant said Friday.
"We need to be able to increase our capacity to do the same," Bryant said. "In order for us to maintain jobs in King and Pierce counties and Central Washington, we need to improve the (statewide) freight transportation system."
The Port of Prince Rupert is currently being developed with new funds and by the Canadian federal government, Bryant said.
In response, Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma commissioners recently toured locations throughout the state looking at transportation projects, including Centralia, Longview and Kalama, he said.
They also visited the Tri-Cities, Yakima and Moses Lake.
During a recent Moses Lake meeting, Seattle port commissioners discussed the relationship between the Grant County International Airport and the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and learned more about the Northern Columbia Basin Railroad Project, Bryant commented.
The next step for the Port of Seattle is to take back the information it received during its tour and to speak with port colleagues and legislators to identify transportation projects for government funding, he said.
Port of Seattle External Affairs Director Kurt Beckett said the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma are looking at a piece of federal legislation done every six years, which guides where federal investment goes.
The ports want to make sure there's a freight chapter in that bill, which forms strategic gateways vital to the national economy, Beckett said.
Those projects shouldn't just be left for the local economy to fund on their own, he explained.
"We want to articulate an argument to fund all those projects," Beckett says.
Moses Lake Mayor Ron Covey attended the recent meeting between Port of Seattle officials and Grant County leaders.
"Since we've recently re-established commercial air service to Grant County and because we're vigorously pursuing improvement to Moses Lake and the port district, it's important we involve ourselves with other port districts in the state," Covey said.
The Seattle/Tacoma area "is kind of the hub of the wheel" and Grant County is "just one of the spokes that feed into the hub," Covey commented.
Seattle port officials wanted to know what they could do to assist Grant County officials in the future, he said.
"It's important we work together to make sure we don't lose those import commodities to Canada and Mexico because they're thinking of doing the same thing," Covey explained.
The discussion also covered the possibility of the Grant County International Airport being able to serve the Seattle region with cargo shipments, he said.
It could mean there would be a cargo area added at the Grant County airport, he explained.
They might ship by truck or rail to Grant County and the cargo would be picked up by air or rail for the East Coast, Covey said.
"There are all sorts of possibilities that exist, that we might be part of the loop," he added.
Jon Smith, the communications and research director for the Grant County Economic Development Council, also attended the meeting.
Smith said if there's a break in the transportation system, it affects the entire state.
"We need to partner together in transportation issues," Smith says. "We mainly talked about rail and freeways. If there's a hiccup in those systems way out here, it has a direct impact on goods being shipped from the Central U.S. to the Port of Seattle."
Karen Bonaudi, assistant executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, said the commission is concerned because they ship many frozen products and fresh products out to the ports.
The cost of doing business and exporting factors into that, she said.
"There's been a number of suggested fee increases in California at ports, so we really have to monitor that situation on behalf of our exporters," Bonaudi said.
Port of Moses Lake Executive Manager Craig Baldwin and Columbia Basin Herald Publisher Harlan Beagley also attended the meeting.
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