Press Releases

Herrera Beutler’s Columbia River Infrastructure Projects Signed into Law

Congress approves and president signs into law water infrastructure bill with navigation improvement projects that will increase economic capacity on Columbia River

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Washington, December 29, 2020 | comments

This week, the president signed into law the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA) that included a Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler-authored provision to construct a turning basin navigation improvement project in the Columbia River.

Herrera Beutler’s provision will authorize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct the necessary feasibility study of establishing a turning basin on the Lower Martin Bar near Kalama, as well as 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 supports millions of tons of cargo each year and thousands of local jobs, which is why it’s important to invest in and upgrade the river’s infrastructure. I was pleased to help champion the construction of the Kalama turning basin which is going to support those vital jobs, and I’m pleased this infrastructure bill I helped shape has now been signed into law,” said Herrera Beutler.

“The Port of Kalama appreciates the determined efforts by Congresswoman Herrera Beutler and our Senators to include the Columbia River Turning Basin language in the WRDA legislation. The Lower Martin Turning Basin is an important Columbia River asset to the Port of Kalama as well as all commercial traffic on the river,” said Mark Wilson, Executive Director of the Port of Kalama.

"Establishing a new federal turning basin near Kalama and improving the existing turning basins near Longview and Vancouver will enable more efficient operations for our lower Columbia River ports and terminals, making them even more productive gateways for U.S. goods headed overseas. We appreciate Congresswoman Herrera Beutler's continued leadership on these projects, which are so important to our trade competitiveness and our regional and national 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.

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