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Restoring the Lower Snake River

October 9, 2014


PortofLewistonThe Port of Lewiston lost $445,497 on its day-to-day operations in fiscal year 2014 as cargo leaving the area in containers continued to slump.

The figure signals a continuation of a trend that emerged last year when the port lost $92,435 in the same area, according to an audit port commissioners reviewed Wednesday.

Numbers include revenue from use of port-owned properties and its container operations, which have historically funded routine port functions.

They exclude money the port receives from property taxes, land transactions and government grants, which equaled $2.2 million in 2014, according to the audit by accounting firm Presnell Gage of Lewiston.

Revenue dropped by almost $125,000, to $1.3 million in 2014, as expenses rose from $1.5 million to $1.7 million.

One of the reasons there was less money available involves container volumes. The number of containers the port handled fell to 4,439 in 2013, compared with a high of 17,611 in 1997. This year, the port has handled 2,108 containers through the end of September, compared with 3,205 in the same time last year.

On the cost side, the port spent $211,248 in 2014 for land development, other than building infrastructure. That compared with $48,232 in the previous year.

The money went for planned dredging work near its container dock in the Clearwater River, which the port has to prepay; a master plan for the Harry Wall industrial park at the base of the Lewiston Hill; and a transportation study on rail lines and streets in North Lewiston, west of U.S. Highway 12/95.

Depreciation, which was up by $57,288 to $412,996 in 2014, represented the second-largest expense, behind dock operations of $466,083.

The port's efforts to drum up business are being hampered by circumstances out of its control at the Port of Portland, Ore., said Lewiston Port Manager David Doeringsfeld.

The West Coast International Longshore and Warehouse Union puts containers onto ocean-going barges at the Port of Portland and has been working without a contract since July, Doeringsfeld said.

Productivity at the Port of Portland has slid to a level where Doeringsfeld said the Port of Lewiston's customers are sending cargo to Puget Sound instead of risking the possibility it won't be loaded on schedule in Portland.

The Port of Lewiston, however, remains optimistic that service at the Port of Portland will improve when the union contract is settled, he said, giving exporters more confidence in the Snake and Columbia river barging system.

Calls to union and Port of Portland officials Wednesday weren't immediately returned.

As Lewiston waits to see how the issues at the Port of Portland are resolved, it's looking at the potential for containers leaving Lewiston by rail, Doeringsfeld said.

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