The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 (H.R. 3547) – the budget deal approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on January 17 – included $40 million for the Army Corps to use for dredging at small ports across the nation. Every year the Army Corps of Engineers conducts dredging to maintain federally authorized channels across the country. Small ports often don’t have enough tonnage to be prioritized by the Army Corps for dredging.
Several Washington small ports and waterways require dredging to stay open for commerce, including the ports of Ilwaco and Chinook at the mouth of the Columbia River, Kenmore Navigation Channel in King County and the Quillayute River in Clallam County. Cantwell said that these projects should be considered in her letter to the Army Corps of Engineers.
Cantwell wrote in her letter sent Friday: “As you develop the Army Corps of Engineers Fiscal Year 2014 work plan for the allocation of $40 million for small, remote, or subsistence ports that was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 (H.R. 3547), I ask you to strongly consider four important projects in Washington. I would urge you to prioritize the Baker Bay, Chinook Channel, Kenmore Navigation Channel, and Quillayute River navigation projects in Washington State.”
In her letter, Cantwell also highlighted why it’s important to jobs and businesses in Pacific, King and Clallam counties for dredging to move forward on these projects.
“Our nation’s small ports serve as the lifeblood of their communities and help support thousands of fishing, shipbuilding and recreation jobs around the country,” Cantwell continued in her letter. “The three counties in which these four channels sit have an average unemployment rate of 7.9 percent and the decreasing channel depths threaten to exacerbate the challenges these communities face. Baker Bay and Chinook Channels together support a marine industry that generates $157 million in annual sales and $143 million in exports mostly through seafood processing and boatbuilding.”
Baker Bay and Chinook Channels together provide critical access to the Pacific Ocean for commercial and private vessels and the Coast Guard in Pacific County. According to a recent report from the Pacific County Economic Development Council, marine jobs make up 20 percent of the county’s jobs. Dredging-dependent employers are responsible for 1,106 direct jobs and support an additional 360 in the area. The Port of Ilwaco supports an 850-slip marina, seafood processing and 25 marina-dependent commercial tenants.
The Port of Chinook supports a 300-slip marina – 30 commercial and 270 recreational vessels. The Port supports seafood processing, including 3.6 million pounds of crab valued at $8.5 million, and 15 port-dependent businesses. The United States Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment also depends on this channel to access the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean, and respond to 200 to 300 calls for assistance annually.
Kenmore Navigation Channel supports many area businesses including a concrete and asphalt plant and the Kenmore Air Harbor, the largest seaplane air harbor in the United States. Without dredging, water depth is reduced, which could lead to landing gear on seaplanes being damaged by aquatic weeds. Dredging on the Quillayute River is needed to keep a channel open used by rescue boats from the area Coast Guard Station and vessels using the Quileute Tribal Marina.