What Future for the Lower Snake River Waterway?
In late 2012, the Army Corps of Engineers’ in Washington State released a document and started a critically important conversation about the future of the lower Snake River waterway – and its use as a barge transportation corridor. It’s a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) about sediment management for the waterway. Save Our wild Salmon, in concert with several others groups and the Nez Perce Tribe, has begun work to understand this Dredging DEIS, how the Army Corps would like to manage sediment, shipping and taxpayer dollars in the Lower Snake River for decades to come. The results of our collective research culminated in extensive comments that we submitted in late March before the comment deadline.
Though the Army Corps is not explicit, the future of the waterway as a transportation corridor is this document's real subject and issue. Read below to learn how this new regional discussion is taking shape. Local citizens are challenging the Army Corps' numbers and analyses. Understanding the actual value of this waterway in the 21st Century - its costs and benefits - and who pays and who benefits - and its risks, must be the foundation for any decisions about its future. Freight transport options in and out of the Lewiston/Clarkston area are essential for local farmers and other businesses, but shipping alternatives exist and these need to be part of this larger discussion.
Lewiston Tribune: Port container traffic on hold indefinitely
By ELAINE WILLIAMS
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Port container traffic on hold indefinitely
Several Hapag-Lloyd containers sit idle Tuesday at the Port of Lewiston along the banks of the Clearwater River. Hapag-Lloyd, which supplies 90 percent of the containers to Lewiston, has announced it’s pulling out of the Port of Portland in Oregon.
The permanent withdrawal of a key overseas shipper from the Port of Portland has put container traffic at Idaho's only seaport on hold indefinitely for the first time since it started in 1978.
Hapag-Lloyd confirmed Tuesday it's no longer calling on the Port of Portland and will serve its customers through other locations, such as the Port of Tacoma, according to a prepared statement from the German-based shipper.
"We regret any inconveniences for customers and also any negative impact on the port. Our offices are prepared to offer alternative options."
Hapag-Lloyd handled the ocean going portion of the journey for more than 90 percent of the containers that originated in Lewiston.
The only remaining container carrier at the Port of Portland is Westwood, and it's unlikely it will be able to absorb Hapag-Lloyd's customers from Lewiston since it visits different destinations, said Lewiston Port Manager David Doeringsfeld.
"At this point in time, the Port of Lewiston is not shipping any containers on water," he said.
Doeringsfeld said he and the port commissioners are trying to grasp what the effect will be and to create a strategy to respond. They will discuss the issue at their meeting today.
The port employs seven people, four at the container yard and three in the administrative office, including one part-time worker.
Doeringsfeld declined to discuss what will become of the employees connected to the container dock.
The container yard was projected to generate about $4,000 in revenue this year after expenses of about $295,000, Doeringsfeld said. In both instances, those figures are roughly half what was originally forecast because the port didn't predict a slowdown of labor on the West Coast during a contract negotiation where a tentative agreement has been reached, Doeringsfeld said.
Costs would have been more except the port found other jobs for container employees to complete while containers weren't moving, such as performing maintenance on port-owned buildings.
When the work the employees were doing wasn't related to the container yard, it was charged to other areas of the budget, Doeringsfeld said.
Those figures come from a $1.9 million budget where gross revenue from the container dock is one of the largest sources of income. The port had expected about $450,000 each from rentals and property taxes as well as $260,000 from Inland 465, a huge warehouse in this fiscal year.
What the port can do for its customers who mostly ship dried peas and lentils is still being determined, Doeringsfeld said.
One possibility is shifting that business to rail, but making the service available is complicated. The Lewiston-Clarkston Valley's only line, the Great Northwest Railroad, is a short line that would have to negotiate agreements with the carriers it connects with in Washington - Union Pacific or Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
"That's something that takes months, not weeks," Doeringsfeld said.
The port also is exploring the possibility of recruiting other business to its container dock, but has no signed contracts at this time, Doeringsfeld said.
That doesn't necessarily mean the dock will remain inactive, since those agreements are often finalized about 30 days in advance, Doeringsfeld said.
Even though business at the container dock has come to a halt, the port still believes its investment of $2.8 million to more than double the length of its container dock with $1.3 million in federal money was a good choice, Doeringsfeld said. "We will continue to market this asset to promote job creation."
Losing the container business is a blow, but Doeringsfeld said containers represent only about 15 percent of the tonnage shipped from the Port of Lewiston. The remainder is bulk grain that leaves the Lewis Clark Terminal at the Port of Lewiston.
Overall barge shipping on the Snake and Columbia rivers continues to play an important role in the economy of the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, Doeringsfeld said.
Clearwater Paper, for instance, barges chips and sawdust for its Lewiston mill to the Port of Wilma just west of Clarkston from Columbia City, downriver of the Portland area.
As the Port of Lewiston determines its next move, many are watching closely, including environmentalists.
Taxpayer subsidies play an increasingly important role at the Port of Lewiston, said Greg Stahl, a spokesman for Idaho Rivers United in Boise, which supports removing the four lower Snake River dams.
"How much economic benefit is this really generating for the amount of outlay?" Stahl said. "In any free-market scenario, it appears the port wouldn't even exist, at least at this point."
Idaho Statesman Coumnist Rocky Barker: New numbers won't change debate about Snake River structures
By ROCKY BARKER
March 5, 2015
Jim Waddell is walking the path blazed by McCall biologist Don Chapman.
Waddell, a retired U.S. Army Corps of Engineers economist, now says the agency's 1999 calculations - released in final form in 2002 - on the cost and benefits of the four lower Snake River dams in Washington were wrong. Breaching the dams, he says, was the most economically sound route for the Pacific Northwest, not gold-plating the dams with fish-passage devices, new electric-generating turbines, new locks and repeated, regular dredging.
Chapman is a former University of Idaho fisheries professor who went from beloved mentor for a generation of fisheries biologists to become the hydroelectric industry's most respected defender in the 1990s. He said until 2005 that the fish-bypass systems were adequate, until it became clear that the rising temperature of the Columbia River and its tributaries and the effects of global warming on ocean conditions made breaching those dams the best hope for Idaho's wild salmon to survive or flourish.
It's a decade later and little has changed. Cyclical Pacific Ocean conditions - cold currents that increase the availability of food and keep predator numbers low - have allowed salmon and steelhead numbers to balloon since 2000, when the decision was made to forgo breaching despite the scientific consensus of the time. Fish-passage devices at the dams and increased spill of water over the dams ordered by a federal judge to aid migration have helped boost salmon populations, as have a host of other costly actions throughout the watershed.
But the overall scientific argument has changed very little. The science continues to show that breaching the four dams is the most effective way to restore salmon in what is the best, healthiest habitat left in the Pacific Northwest: Central Idaho.
Some biologists do believe recovery of the endangered stocks of salmon can happen simply with more water spilled over the dams instead of run through the turbines. But they remain a minority. An even smaller group thinks the status quo is enough, and they are backed, largely, by the dams' barging, hydroelectric, irrigation and industrial interests.
The truth is, neither the science nor the Corps' economic numbers in 2000 were significant to the debate. Instead, politics ruled the day.
Lewiston Morning Tribune Commentary: Waddell is not so easy to ignore
Friday, February 27, 2015
By Chris Carlson
To breach or not to breach the four lower Snake River dams is again being discussed across the region, thanks, in no small part, to an excellent front page article in a recent Sunday edition of the Lewiston Tribune written by Eric Barker.
Thanks, in no small part, also to Jim Waddell, a longtime civilian employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, now retired, who skillfully took a part in earlier corps economic studies attempting to validate the thesis that it would be more expensive to breach the dams than to keep them running.
That just did not pass the common-sense test for Waddell. So after he retired from the corps as a deputy district engineer, he sank his teeth into a hard-nosed analysis of claims made by the corps. To say he found skewed assumptions, ignored issues and cooked numbers would be seriously understating what he unearthed.
Allow me a chortle or two. Two years ago I published my second book, "Medimont Reflections," which contained 13 essays on other issues and other people I had worked with during my almost 40 years of public-sector involvement.
Two of the essays should have generated some controversy inasmuch as they dealt with the four lower Snake dams and with the Northwest Power Planning Council, of which I was Idaho's first appointee and sat for almost a year.
Lewiston Morning Tribune Editorial: Will taxpayers dub it a 'Port to Nowhere'?
Sunday, March 1, 2015
Credit northern Idaho for electing to Congress some of the nation's most notorious fiscal tightwads - Steve Symms, Larry Craig, Helen Chenoweth-Hage, C.L. (Butch) Otter, Bill Sali and Raul Labrador.
And they followed up with jeering the loudest against the usual suspects of federal waste - whether it was paying $435 for a hammer, $600 for a toilet seat or $7,000 for a coffee pot during the Reagan era.
For some, it was the late Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, pouring nearly $400 million into a bridge linking 50 residents of Gravina Island to the town of Ketchikan - famously dubbed the "Bridge to Nowhere."
For others, it was the king of congressional pork, the late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., spreading $1.5 billion on his "Corridor H" project, otherwise known as the "Highway to Nowhere" because it stops 10 miles short of the Virginia state line.
How many of your own neighbors railed against the Obama administration allocating $500 million to the solar cell manufacturer Solyndra - only to have the company file for bankruptcy and fire all its employees?
Lewiston Tribune: Port of Lewiston sees its container shipping drop to lowest levels in years
January 15, 2015
By ELAINE WILLIAMS
The Port of Lewiston's container shipments declined to the worst level in more than two decades in 2014, and port officials are blaming a union labor disagreement and a contracted operator of the Port of Portland's container terminal.
Lewiston port employees handled 3,240 containers in 2014, said Manager David Doeringsfeld at a Wednesday port commissioner meeting.
That's fewer than the 3,653 containers they moved in 2011, which had been the worst year on record since 1991, according to numbers on the port's website.
Bulk grain was significantly stronger, with 659,169 tons leaving the Lewis-Clark Terminal, a port tenant, in 2014. That figure compares with a high of 952,599 tons in 1995 and a low of 382,606 in 2008, according to figures from the port's website that go back to 1991.
One of the biggest problems is an inability to get empty containers from the Port of Portland so they can be filled with goods in Lewiston and barged down the Snake and Columbia rivers to Portland, where they are transferred to ocean-going ships, Doeringsfeld said.
Jennifer Sargent, a union spokeswoman in San Francisco, said Wednesday in an email that the union and the contracted operator of the container terminal, ICTSI Oregon, have nothing to do with how many empty containers the Port of Lewiston receives.
What the Port of Lewiston encountered in December was typical of what happened the entire year, Doeringsfeld said. Twice the port received a significantly lower number of empty containers than what it ordered. In one instance, for example, the port got 31 instead of 70. Had the containers been available, the port would have had plenty of business to fill them, Doeringsfeld said.
Oregonian: Hanjin Shipping officially leaves Port of Portland, taking vast majority of port's business with it
Earlier in the day, ICTSI chief executive Elvis Ganda said he was surprised when The Oregonian/OregonLive reported that South Korea-based Hanjin sent its stakeholders a new long-range schedule that showed the March 4 Hanjin Brussels ship as its last to dock in Portland.
Later in the day, a letter to shipping companies that work with Hanjin received a letter saying Portland had been dropped as a stop for container ships. According to the letter, Portland would only be serviced by truck and rail via the Seattle port.
Thomas said Hanjin told the port that the expected last day of service is March 9.
Hanjin ships account for 78 percent of the business at Terminal 6, moving 1,600 containers per week. Those shipments moved most Oregon agricultural exports to Asia, and brought apparel for Northwest-based companies like Nike and Columbia Sportswear in and out of the country.
According to the Port of Portland, that business generated $83 million annually.
Hanjin has not commented yet on reasons for withdrawing.
However, its most recent ship sat for four days waiting to be unloaded while the longshore workers stopped working Friday and Monday to protest their grievance with ICTSI, and the port operator canceled work on Saturday and Sunday, saying the workers weren't productive enough to justify paying.
Tuesday, longshoremen started unloading the Hanjin vessel at Terminal 6. But that might have been too late to keep Portland's biggest customer happy.
ICTSI Oregon is part of the Pacific Maritime Association, a coalition with 28 other West Coast port operators who are negotiating a new contract with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The port operators association has accused the dock workers of slowing down work to the point that they are incapacitating normal port activities.
In Portland, the larger contract dispute is layered on years of tension between longshoremen and ICTSI Oregon.
ICTSI and the local longshore workers have been to several arbitration proceedings, where disagreements between the port operator and the union are ironed out. ICTSI officials claim that workers have slowed down activity at the port for years, even before the latest round of contract negotiations.
This caused Hanjin to threaten to leave Portland for good before. Eventually, the Port of Portland decided to pay up to $4 million to incentivize shippers to send containers through Portland in a bid to keep Hanjin's service. That never sat well with the union, and Hanjin's executives remained skeptical of conditions improving at the port as recently as March 2014.
- Feb 15, 2015 - Lewiston Tribune: Once more into the breach debate
- Jan 21, 2015 - HCN: Livin' on the dredge: Army Corps mucks out the Snake
- Jan 12, 2015 - For Immediate Release: Court declines injunction request to prevent lower Snake dredging this winter; legal challenge moves forward
- Jan 04, 2015 - LMT: Port brass defend dredging plan
- Jan 04, 2015 - CBB: Lower Snake Dredging Opponents: Loss Of Revenues Does Not Out Weigh Irreparable Environmental Injury
- Dec 28, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Pacific lamprey could halt dredging
- Dec 26, 2014 - NWPR: $2 Million In Taxpayer Dollars At Risk In Snake River Dredging Showdown
- Dec 08, 2014 - Guest Opinion: Aging infrastructure and scarce dollars means tough decisions
- Nov 25, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Dredging plan spawns lawsuit
- Nov 25, 2014 - Press release: Fishing, conservation groups challenge Corps' costly dredging of lower Snake River
- Nov 24, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Clearwater Paper's new warehouse could hurt port
- Oct 09, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Lewiston port had difficult fiscal 2014
- Sep 11, 2014 - ACTION ALERT - Stop wasteful spending. Protect our wild salmon!
- Aug 19, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Dredging on docket for Snake River
- Jun 25, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Letters to the Editor
- Jun 20, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Activists descend on Lewiston port hearing
- Apr 30, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: New economic data emerges in dams debate
- Apr 12, 2014 - Lewiston Tribune: Group says megaloads threaten rivers
- Mar 26, 2014 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Lock repair at Little Goose has shippers scrambling;
- Jan 15, 2014 - High Country News: Megaloads and wild–and-scenic rivers don’t mix
- Dec 17, 2013 - Protect the Lower Snake-Oppose Harmful, Unlawful Dredging!
- Dec 04, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Getting to the bottom of the issue
- Nov 14, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Dredging up an endless debate
- Oct 25, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Megaloads company gives up legal fight
- Oct 23, 2013 - Wall Street Journal: Road Too Far: GE Strains to Deliver Energy Colossus
- Oct 07, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Much more McGregor
- Oct 07, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Bye-Bye to barging on the Snake, Clearwater?
- Sep 27, 2013 - Al Jazeera: Tribe fights to save historic river way
- Sep 27, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune editorial: Idaho lost more than a megaload court case
- Sep 27, 2013 - New York Times: Fight Over Energy Finda a New Front in a Corner of Idaho
- Sep 17, 2013 - Spokesman-Review Editorial: Thorough, fair ruling for U.S. 12 megaloads
- Sep 17, 2013 - Lewiston Tribune: Judge suspends megaloads
- Aug 19, 2013 - Seattle Times: Snake River barging drop: new factor in dams debate?
- Aug 16, 2013 - For Immediate Release: Corps Delay to Dredge Lower Snake Shows Need for More Study
- Aug 08, 2013 - Nez Perce Tribe Blockades Tar Sands
- Jul 26, 2013 - SOS Letter to Forest Service re: megaloads and salmon
- Jul 22, 2013 - For immediate release: Five myths about freight transportation on the Lower Snake River
- Jun 28, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Port of Lewiston meeting takes an existential turn
- Jun 07, 2013 - LMT Guest Opinion: If you do the math, dams don't add up
- May 05, 2013 - Spokesman Review guest opinion: It’s time to assess use of shrinking tax dollars on lower Snake River dams
- Apr 23, 2013 - AP: Dredge plan draws opposition
- Mar 07, 2013 - Old Arguments, New Realities
- Mar 07, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Editorial: Don't take Linwood Laughy's word for it
- Jan 25, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune: Dredging costs rise to top of meeting
- Jan 24, 2013 - Rocky Barker Blog: Corps faces a fight over dredging behind Lower Snake dams.
- Jan 24, 2013 - Lewiston Morning Tribune Editorial: Judging River Dredging Plan By the Numbers
- Jan 23, 2013 - The Sediment Statement and the Lower Snake River Waterway