CRC close to second mitigation agreement

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter



The Columbia River Crossing appears close to a mitigation agreement with two of the three major riverfront manufacturers negatively affected by the project, after Greenberry Industrial announced Monday that it was nearing a deal.

The company’s statement follows a similar confirmation by Oregon Iron Works last week. But the CRC so far hasn’t found the same progress with the third business, Vancouver-based Thompson Metal Fab.

“We haven’t reached any settlement with them,” Thompson spokesman Tom Hunt said Monday.

CRC officials expect to use millions of taxpayer dollars to compensate the three manufacturers who say they’d be squeezed by the $3.4 billion Interstate 5 Bridge replacement, which would reduce the maximum clearance under the freeway. Project and state leaders have spent recent months negotiating with each company to determine just how much they’ll pay as mitigation.

Greenberry’s statement indicates those talks are approaching a resolution on two of three fronts.

“Greenberry Industrial is close to reaching a mitigation agreement with Oregon and Washington on the impact a restricted-height Interstate 5 bridge would have on our company’s operations,” Greenberry’s statement said. “We are encouraged by the progress of recent negotiations and are optimistic about reaching an agreement that will enable Greenberry to maintain its proven business model and will protect critical manufacturing jobs for our employees in both states.”

Through a spokesman, the company declined further comment. It’s unclear how much the CRC would pay Greenberry under the agreement, or whether Greenberry would move any part of its existing operation downstream of a new I-5 bridge.

Last week, Oregon Iron Works said it was also nearing a deal that would allow it to remain in its Vancouver location. That company had indicated it was not interested in relocating.

Those involved in the negotiations haven’t disclosed details. The talks are bound by nondisclosure agreements.

Hunt said he’s not surprised to hear that Greenberry and Oregon Iron Works are close to agreements with the CRC. But the negotiations are playing out separately, he said, and the outcome of one doesn’t necessarily affect the others.

Thompson, like the other companies, has said it supports the CRC — even as it raises concerns about the bridge height and the economic hit it could deliver.

“We’d love to reach an accommodation,” Hunt said. “But it’s just not there.”

The CRC would replace twin lift spans with a new bridge providing 116 feet of fixed clearance, too low for the upriver manufacturers at Vancouver’s Columbia Business Center to fit their largest products under the bridge. The existing I-5 Bridge offers 178 feet of clearance when lifted.

The CRC has said the difference could cost the three manufacturers up to $116 million in total lost profits. Project leaders are hoping to finalize mitigation agreements by the end of August.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard is weighing whether to approve a crucial bridge permit by this fall. The Washington Legislature is headed for a funding decision that could make or break the CRC. And C-Tran, one of the project’s local sponsoring agencies, is reconsidering its own role ahead of a board meeting Tuesday.

In addition to replacing the I-5 Bridge, the CRC would extend light rail into Vancouver and rebuild freeway interchanges on both sides of the Columbia River.