LONGVIEW — Port of Longview commissioners are considering whether they will partner with the Port of Kalama to help fund a federally backed study on improving turning basins on the Columbia River.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study would look into improving the Longview turning basin, and whether it is possible to create a turning basin at the Port of Kalama. Turning basins on the Columbia River offer safe areas for larger, deep-draft ships to turn around during events such as emergencies or bad weather.
The analysis is estimated to cost $2.2 million total over fiscal years 2022-24, according to port documents. This cost is split with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which would pay $1.1 million. If commissioners approve the partnership, the Longview and Kalama ports would be responsible for $550,000 each to cover the remaining $1.1 million.
To make the basins better at accommodating larger ships, the ports periodically deepen the Columbia River at certain terminals, said planning director Lisa Hendriksen. The river itself was last deepened in 2010, but Longview’s turning basin at the time was not.
“The feasibility analysis is done to make sure … yes, it’s now time to deepen our turning basin and create a turning basin for Kalama,” Hendriksen told commissioners Wednesday. “Once that feasibility study is done, it’s going to take a few years to be completed and the next step would be for us to have a conversation with the Corps on how construction funding and cost will work.”
Port Commissioner Jeff Wilson said he acknowledged the need for better turning basin areas, but worried about the port shouldering a half-million-dollar price tag.
He said he also wanted the Corps to consider how the Columbia and Cowlitz rivers interact with each other and how a project like this could affect the turning basins.
“I would like just a little bit more staff research, outreach to the Corps on this … Because it costs a lot of money, that’s very clear,” Wilson said.
CEO Dan Stahl said he had confidence the study would address those concerns.
“If you have an interest on our behalf of understanding how these two rivers influence each other, I would think this study would be helpful in gaining more understanding,” Stahl said.
Commissioners during their Wednesday meeting did not take any action to approve the feasibility study or whether the Port of Longview would officially co-sponsor the analysis with the Port of Kalama.
Turning basin improvements have been backed by Congressional lawmakers Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler. They earmarked $200,000 for the study this fiscal year and requested an additional $900,000 for fiscal year 2023 relating to the project, according to port documents.
If approved, the feasibility study would be scheduled to finish by 2024, at which time the Port of Longview would look into funding for the construction, according to port documents.