Businesses lobby for full funding for Columbia River dredging
PORTLAND, OREGON-- A coalition of businesses has urged President Bush and members of Congress to ensure that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has enough money to start dredging the Columbia River shipping channel next year.
The coalition -- more than 200 businesses -- says $15 million is needed to start deepening the channel by 3 feet from Portland to Astoria. The House Appropriations Committee approved $3 million last week, and it's unlikely the Senate will provide much more.
Deepening the channel would open the river to the latest models of deep-draft container ships and grain vessels, helping Portland and five ports downriver compete for Pacific Rim business.
After the House vote, the coalition sent a letter to each member of the Northwest's congressional delegation stating its concerns, The Oregonian reported. "We need a deeper channel to keep shipping Northwest products around the world and strengthening our economy at home," the letter said.
The $150.5 million project would allow deep-draft ships to load more fully.
Nethercutt lobbies Bush over dredging
Saturday, June 19, 2004
During a cross-country flight aboard Air Force One on Thursday, Congressman George Nethercutt directly appealed to President Bush to support a proposal to deepen the Columbia River shipping channel.
Nethercutt, accompanying the president during a two-day visit to Washington state, pressed the case for the $150.5 million proposal to deepen the Columbia's shipping channel from 40 to 43 feet, according to Nethercutt press secretary April Isenhower.
It remains unclear whether Nethercutt's appeal will result in the long-delayed project finally moving forward.
Dredging supporters want Bush to amend the budget he submitted to Congress earlier this year to include the $15 million necessary to begin the project within the next year. Bush's original budget request included no money for Columbia River deepening, and the project is being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
"We remain tremendously confident it will pass OMB review with flying colors," said Dave Hunt, director of the Columbia River Channel Coalition in Portland. "The issue is the timing for budget amendments."
With the Senate preparing its own budget within the coming weeks, Hunt said the president's support is critical now. A House appropriations committee this week allocated $3 million for the project, disappointing dredging supporters.
Nethercutt, a Spokane Republican trying to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, had touted his powerful connections during a visit to Vancouver in February, and dredging supporters saw an opportunity for Nethercutt to press the case to Bush this week.
Nethercutt broached the issue during a 45-minute meeting with Bush as the pair flew to Spokane aboard Air Force One on Thursday, Isenhower said.
A fund-raising dinner later that night raised $750,000 for Nethercutt's campaign to defeat Murray, who has led support in the Senate for Columbia dredging.
A Bush spokesman did not return a call from The Columbian on Friday seeking comment about the president's visit with Nethercutt.
Chad Kolton, press secretary for the administration's budget office, said the OMB has been reviewing the Columbia River project since receiving official documents from the Army Corps of Engineers in late April.
The Corps of Engineers needs $15 million to start the project, which has been studied since 1989.
The money would be added to $55 million already committed by legislatures in Washington and Oregon, and $10 million already funded by the federal government, primarily for environmental restoration.
Dredging supporters say the project is necessary to hold onto a shipping industry that provides thousands of jobs and carries $13 billion worth of goods annually.
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