The ports in Longview and Kalama are looking to make it easier for ships to pass through this part of the Columbia River.
Kalama and Longview decided to split the cost with the federal government for a $2.2-million study to deepen and realign Longview’s turning basins on the Columbia River.
The Port of Kalama will have its own version of the study to see whether it could build a turning basin, which are port features that help larger vessels turn around in the river if needed.
Both ports will be responsible to pay $550,000 each to cover their share of estimated study costs. The remaining $1.1 million will come from the federal government.
U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, Maria Cantwell and Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler earlier this year worked to secure grants and other funding for port projects across the state. For this project, lawmakers earmarked $200,000 and are awaiting final approval for another $900,000.
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The study will be conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 2022 to 2024.
“What the Corps does when they evaluate the feasibility analysis is they have some key overarching things,” said Lisa Hendriksen, Port of Longview director of planning and environmental services. “One is to understand and fully define the water resource problem, find the current conditions, develop alternatives to address that problem, conduct economic analysis and compare alternatives.”
Once finished, the ports will have authority over construction, though the Corps will eventually be financially responsible for maintaining the finished turning basins.
The first stage of the study is an initial “due diligence” phase that will confirm the cost estimate. Both ports will pay $25,000 now and the rest later.
Building turning basins has become a focus for the ports as ships get larger and more frequent in this part of the Columbia River, said Mark Wilson, executive director at Port of Kalama. The project to build one at the Port of Kalama started nearly a decade ago.
There are currently two turning basins near Longview and Kalama, he said.
“We have one location at river mile 73 and one small one down near Longview that isn’t quite adequate, but other than that, there’s really not much along this part of the river where you can turn around vessels,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the Port of Kalama has seen a steady rise in business since 2015, particularly when it comes to wheat grain imports and exports, which highlighted a need to accommodate bigger ships.
The Port of Longview also saw a record first financial quarter this year with $4.7 million in operating revenue, up from $3.2 million during the same period the year prior.