Wheat Growers Look into Jetties
by Scott Yates
Capital Press, December 21, 2007
SPOKANE - If it's not one thing, it's another. Now, the jetties that protect the Columbia River from filling in at its mouth need to be fixed.
Dave Hunt, executive director of the Columbia River Channel Coalition, said temporary repairs were made recently, but the effort needs a comprehensive approach.
"We cannot let what happened in New Orleans, when the levees breached, happen at the mouth of the Columbia River," Hunt said. "We need to repair them now."
Meeting with the Washington Wheat Commission in a first-of-a-kind fashion, Hunt appeared via a DVD he recorded and sent, rather than himself. New snow in the Cascades prevented his appearance in person, so he appeared two-dimensionally on a screen at the end of the Washington Grain Alliance board room.
The Washington Association of Wheat Growers is a founding member of the channel coalition and has supported the group to the tune of $500 a year since 1997. Most of the group's funding comes from the Columbia River's six lower ports. Glen Squires, vice president of the Washington Grain Alliance, said the industry supports the coalition's new priorities.
"The jetties are a piece of the puzzle. We got the channel deepened; now it's time to move to the next thing on the list," he said.
Squires was referring to the years-long effort to dredge the ship channel of the Columbia an additional 3 feet. Delayed for years, the deepening project is now three-quarters complete, Hunt said.
Those 3 feet represent 6,000 additional tons of freight that deep-draft ships can carry.
That amounts to almost $19 million worth of transportation savings a year.
Now, it's time to focus on the jetties at the mouth of the river, Hunt said. Built in the late 1800, the jetties, which confine the tidal flow on the open seacoast to a selected channel, allow boats and ships of all sizes, from deep-draft to recreational, to cross the Columbia River bar.
Beaten by storms every winter, the jetty on the south side of the river has already lost a mile of its 7-mile length, Hunt said. Temporary fixes are under way, but the Corps of Engineers is slated to come out with a full rehabilitation report this spring.
"That will provide guidance for what we need to do at the mouth to repair jetties in a permanent way that guarantees safe navigation across the Columbia River bar for vessels of all sizes," he said.
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