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News / Business / Clark County Business

Perez, White House adviser laud $4.1M federal grant for Vancouver barge company

Officials say money for Tidewater Barge Lines will help local economy

By Carlos Fuentes, Columbian staff writer
Published: September 25, 2023, 7:28pm
4 Photos
Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, and White House senior adviser Mitch Landrieu, right, tour Tidewater Barge Lines' dock with CEO Todd Busch. Tidewater won a federal infrastructure grant to replace an old diesel-powered crane, seen at right, with a new electric model.
Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, and White House senior adviser Mitch Landrieu, right, tour Tidewater Barge Lines' dock with CEO Todd Busch. Tidewater won a federal infrastructure grant to replace an old diesel-powered crane, seen at right, with a new electric model. (Photos by Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Mitch Landrieu can give a speech. In his political tenure, he has served as the mayor of New Orleans, lieutenant governor of Louisiana, and currently serves as senior adviser to President Joe Biden.

But when the experienced politician finished his tour of Tidewater Barge Lines at the Port of Vancouver on Monday, he had few words:

“It’s unbelievable — I mean, that’s incredible.”

Landrieu and U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, visited Tidewater Barge Lines on Monday morning to celebrate the $4.1 million award that the company received from the 2021 Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Tidewater, which operates 14 towboats and 160 barges that transport cargo up and down the Columbia and Snake rivers, will use the funds to purchase and install its first electric dock crane in Vancouver.

Landrieu has spent the last two years overseeing the implementation of the Federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the White House. He said he chose to visit Tidewater because the electric crane meets most of the requirements for an ideal infrastructure project.

“It’s good to point out a real project where something is getting done sooner rather than later,” Landrieu said. “It helps put people back to work, helps make sure we’re moving supply chains, helps make sure that you’re removing solid waste faster than not, and it helps highlight the congresswoman who’s done an incredible job to support her district.”

Shipping innovations

For roughly 30 years, Tidewater Barge Lines has transported much of Clark County’s municipal solid waste to disposal facilities in Eastern Oregon via specialized toxic barges — the safest, cleanest and fastest method of transportation, according to Todd Busch, president and CEO of the company.

A growing demand for solid waste transport in Clark County prompted Tidewater to apply for funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“This model has been so successful, there’s (been) a demand for more solid waste out of our terminal,” he said. “However, our entire system operates on some older equipment, including this 55-year-old crane behind us here today.”

The shipping company received $4.1 million to fund the new electric dock crane, which will be installed by next spring, Busch said.

“This crane will eliminate our current crane’s annual consumption of about 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 291 gallons of oil and over 24 cases of grease,” he said. “It will also operate about 25 percent faster, creating more efficient and safer operations for our employees.”

The electric-powered crane will allow the company to transport an additional 3,000 shipping containers per year — a number that would require 15,000 gallons of fuel to transport by truck, Busch said.

During the visit, Perez said the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has been a vital tool to stimulate economic activity in Southwest Washington and promote jobs in the trades and adjacent industries.

“I think that’s exactly the kind of thing that we celebrate seeing our federal government support us in doing — the nuts and bolts, the good jobs, the American-made machinery that moves our country forward,” Perez said.

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Columbian staff writer