Coast Guard to meet on CRC

Public invited to comment on effects on river navigation

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

Published:

 

Public meetings

Tuesday in Portland

■ What: Coast Guard hearing on CRC bridge permit.

■ When: 5-8 p.m. Tuesday (speaker registration begins at 4:30 p.m.).

■ Where: Red Lion Hotel on the River, 909 N. Hayden Island Drive, Portland.


Wednesday in Vancouver

■ What: Coast Guard hearing on CRC bridge permit.

■ When: 5-8 p.m. Wednesday (speaker registration begins at 4:30 p.m.).

■ Where: Hilton Vancouver Washington, 301 W. Sixth St.


Submit comments online

http://regulations.gov; docket number USCG-2013-0286.

Those passionate about the Columbia River Crossing project, mark your calendars: The U.S. Coast Guard is hosting a public meeting on the transportation project Wednesday evening at the Hilton Vancouver Washington, 301 W. Sixth St. in Vancouver.

Public comment given at the meeting will help the Coast Guard decide whether it should grant the CRC a crucial bridge permit. The controversial $3.4 billion proposal to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River needs the Coast Guard's approval to move forward.

In particular, the Coast Guard would like to hear from the public about any impacts the CRC could have to vessels on the Columbia River. Gripes about light-rail transit, construction impacts to local businesses, congestion and safety problems on the current I-5 Bridge, or the project's price tag are less important to the federal agency than issues of river navigation.

"The Coast Guard is required to ensure that bridges do not unreasonably obstruct the needs of navigation, and that is the primary consideration behind every bridge permitting decision," Lt. Regina Caffrey, Seattle-based spokeswoman for District 13 of the Coast Guard, said by email. "Each bridge application permit review is unique, and information is considered as comprehensively as possible. … The Coast Guard does consider information such as economic impacts as data points, but is not a determining factor."

Wednesday's public meeting will take place 5 to 8 p.m., and speaker registration begins at 4:30 p.m. Additionally, the Coast Guard will be in Portland on Tuesday for another public meeting on the same topic.

Public comment guidelines for both meetings are as follows:

• Comments will follow the order in which speakers registered.

• Each person's comment is limited to three minutes.

• Public commenters can't double-dip by speaking at both meetings.

• The views of any group should be presented by just one spokesperson.

Tuesday's meeting in Portland takes place 5 to 8 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel on the River, 909 N. Hayden Island Drive. Speaker registration for that event also begins at 4:30 p.m.

Those unable to attend either Coast Guard meeting can submit public comment online at http://regulations.gov. The docket number associated with the CRC's permit application is USCG-2013-0286.

The CRC filed its initial bridge permit application in January. Later told by the Coast Guard that more information was needed to begin the review process, the project sent additional documents last month. Coast Guard officials are aiming for a Sept. 30 deadline to make its CRC permitting decision.

The bridge permit is only one key hurdle the project needs to clear this year to stay on track. The $3.4 billion CRC hasn't lined up all the state and local funding it needs, and still faces a fight to get it. Project leaders hope to begin construction in late 2014, a schedule one oversight group has called "highly optimistic."

The CRC would replace the twin lift spans that make up the Interstate 5 Bridge with a new bridge providing 116 feet of fixed clearance. The new height of 116 feet is too low for a few upriver manufacturers at Vancouver's Columbia Business Center to ship their largest products under the bridge. The existing I-5 Bridge offers 178 feet of clearance when lifted.

CRC officials expect to use millions of taxpayer dollars to compensate the three manufacturers. Project and state leaders have spent recent months negotiating with each company to determine just how much they'll pay as mitigation, and two -- Greenberry and Oregon Iron Works -- are nearing agreements. So far, the CRC hasn't found the same progress with the third business, Vancouver-based Thompson Metal Fab, but hopes to finalize all the mitigation agreements by the end of August. All three businesses say they support the project overall.


Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523; http://facebook.com/reportermathieu; http://twitter.com/col_politics; stevie.mathieu@columbian.com.