Efforts to establish and improve boat turning basins at lower Columbia River ports moved forward Wednesday after the House authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to undertake the project.
Southwest Washington Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler authored the provision in the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 which sets in motion establishing a turning basin at Lower Martin Bar and improvement of two turning basins near Longview and Vancouver.
The Senate must still agree to the projects. Authorization means the federal government agrees to undertake the projects, but money to actually do the work must be approved separately, in budget bills.
Turning basins allow large, deep-draft ships to turn around in severe weather or emergencies. Currently the Columbia River has limited places for vessels to safely turn. The new projects will increase cargo volume capacity and spur economic development in the region, according to the press release from Herrera Beutler’s office.
“The Columbia River is our region’s most important waterway for shipping goods, and it supports countless jobs in industries throughout the West,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement. “I was pleased to champion the construction of the Kalama turning basin in this legislation so that our ports, shippers, and tugboat operators can more efficiently support this region’s economy.”
The Columbia Rivers ships more than $21 billion in cargo annually, supports tens of thousands of jobs and ensures access for U.S. farmers to the global marketplace, said Kristin Meira, executive director of Pacific Northwest Waterways Association. The Lower Martin area supports more than 40% of the river’s export volume, she said.
River traffic is expected to grow, increasing the need for additional locations for large, deep-draft vessels to turn and park on the lower river, according to the press release.
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