Press Releases

Jaime Herrera Beutler Secures Key Columbia River Infrastructure Projects in House-Passed Bill

U.S. House passes water infrastructure bill with critical navigation improvement projects that will increase economic capacity on West’s largest commercial waterway

The Columbia River is closer to getting a vital turning basin navigation improvement project, thanks to a Congresswoman Herrera Beutler-authored provision in yesterday’s House-passed Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA).

Herrera Beutler’s provision in the House WRDA bill sets in motion the establishment of a turning basin on the Columbia River near Kalama, known as the Lower Martin Bar, and the improvement of two turning basins near Longview and Vancouver. The addition of the turning basin near the Lower Martin Bar and improvements of the two existing turning basins will increase cargo volume capacity and spur economic development in the region.

“The Columbia River is our region’s most important waterway for shipping goods, and it supports countless jobs in industries throughout the West. 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,” said Herrera Beutler.

"The Columbia River is one of the nation’s most vital trade gateways, shipping over $21 billion in cargo annually. It supports tens of thousands of jobs and ensures access for U.S. farmers to the global marketplace. The Lower Martin area alone supports over 40% of the river’s export volume, and provides an excellent navigation and anchorage area for large, deeply laden vessels. Establishing a new turning basin there will increase cargo efficiency, opportunities and jobs in the Northwest. We thank Congresswoman Herrera Beutler for her efforts to ensure infrastructure is in place to support commerce on the river, and by extension, our region’s economy," said Kristin Meira, Executive Director of Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA).

The Columbia River is the largest wheat export gateway in the nation, second in the nation for soybeans, and the third largest gateway in the world. The channel supports over 50 million tons of cargo valued at $24 billion each year, and over 40,000 local jobs are dependent on commerce that runs through the Columbia River. Traffic is expected to grow, increasing the need for additional locations for large, deep-draft vessels to safely turn and park on the lower river.

Background on Columbia River Turning Basins:

Turning basins along the Columbia River allow large, deep-drafting ships to turn around in the event of severe weather or emergencies. Currently, there are a limited number of areas for vessels to safely turn on the Columbia River. Frequently, several ships will form a caravan spaced approximately two to three miles apart. There can be upwards of four or five ships in the caravan ranging from 750 to 1000 feet in length, carrying a wide variety of product, and loaded as deeply as possible to maximize the 43-foot channel. Additionally, intense storms from autumn through spring necessitate closures on the Columbia River Bar which can require the caravans to turn around and return to an anchorage location as far as the Vancouver/Portland area. With very few places on the lower Columbia River to safely turn vessels of this size, it is vital another federal turning basin be established at the Lower Martin Bar.