Coast Guard urged to reject CRC span height

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Legislators' letter to Coast Guard on CRC

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Several state legislators asked the U.S. Coast Guard on Monday to oppose a Columbia River Crossing height of 116 feet.

"The proposed clearance of 116 feet prevents many of our current waterway users from continued use of the river and severely restricts the possibility of any future growth," according to a letter they sent to the Coast Guard on Monday.

Legislators signing the letter include state Sens. Ann Rivers, R-La Center; Don Benton, R-Vancouver; and Curtis King, R-Yakima. State Reps. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver; Liz Pike, R-Camas; Paul Harris, R-Vancouver; Charles Ross, R-Yakima; and Norm Johnson, R-Naches; also signed the letter.

Before the CRC plan to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge can move forward, the Coast Guard must approve a bridge permit for the project. CRC leaders are planning a 116-foot-high fixed span, while the current I-5 drawbridge allows for as much as 178 feet of clearance when lifted.

The CRC had long planned on a new bridge with 95 feet of headroom, before the Coast Guard and others rejected that height as too low. Subsequent surveys have shown that a 116-foot-high bridge would affect far fewer river users, but it still wouldn't be high enough to avoid all impacts.

The letter legislators sent to the Coast Guard did not specify a preferred bridge height, but it did point out that the Interstate 205 bridge allows 144 feet of clearance, the Bridge of the Gods in Skamania County has 140 feet of clearance, and the Hood River Bridge provides 149 feet of clearance.

"It seems obvious to us that 116 feet of clearance clearly makes the navigation conditions much worse," the letter states. "This bridge cannot and should not be the limiting force on the Columbia River."

Eric Florip contributed to this report.