Compromise bill channels funds into deepening

House-Senate Conference Committee agrees to $15 million for Columbia River excavation and $17 million for jetty repair

Yesterday, the U.S. House-Senate conference committee on the Fiscal Year 2006 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill agreed to $15 million in funding for the Columbia River Channel Improvement Project to deepen the Columbia River navigation channel from 40 to 43 feet. The committee also agreed to provide $17 million to repair jetties at the mouth of the Columbia River.

Construction work to deepen the channel started in June using a combination of state matching funds and the FY2005 $9 million federal appropriation. The Army Corps of Engineers is on track to deepen up to 27 miles of the channel by the end of this year.

Potash exporter Canpotex recently committed to invest $12 million in its Port of Portland export facilities based in part on the promise of a deeper channel, according to Port of Portland Executive Director Bill Wyatt.

The agreement’s inclusion of $17 million in funding for jetty repair is of particular significance because of the risk of imminent failure in two locations of the south jetty, according to a statement from the Columbia River Channel Improvement Project.

The compromise bill approved today will go to both the House and Senate for final approval and then to the President to be signed into law.

Washington and Oregon have appropriated a combined $55.4 million for the project, representing the full state matching funds. When completed, the additional three feet of depth will allow bulk ships to carry an additional 6,000 tons of grain and container ships to carry hundreds of additional containers.

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