A bridge to the future, Lewiston Tribune, June 13, 2016

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Port of Whitman County eyes conduit across the Clearwater River

By ELAINE WILLIAMS of the Tribune

One of the newest portions of the Port of Whitman County’s telecommunications network is in Idaho.

The port owns the conduit and some of the fiber going from the Washington-Idaho state border just north of the Clearwater River into North Lewiston’s port district, said Joe Poire, executive director of the Port of Whitman County.

Soon the port hopes to construct conduit on Memorial Bridge over the Clearwater River, a project it was pursuing before the Port of Lewiston got into telecommunications, Poire said.

The Port of Lewiston has a right of use for some of the fiber-optic line in the conduit running from the state line to North Lewiston and will be entitled to use of all of the fiber that goes across the bridge, Poire said.

There are different revenue-sharing agreements between the ports for the bridge and the lines north of the Clearwater.

The Port of Whitman County won’t have any involvement in the network the Port of Lewiston installs south of Memorial Bridge. The Port of Lewiston signed off on the arrangements because the two entities split construction costs and the Port of Whitman shared its expertise, Poire said.

The Port of Whitman paid $200,000 for the line from Washington to North Lewiston, and the Port of Lewiston’s share was about half that, Poire said.

What the costs will be for the bridge project aren’t known yet, Poire said.

Back in 1981, the Port of Whitman County pioneered the telecommunications model the Lewiston port is currently using. The ports construct fiber-optic lines and then lease them at wholesale rates to telecommunications providers.

The approach allows 17 telecommunications companies to use the same lines in Whitman County and lowers the costs of serving rural areas, which sometimes don’t have a sufficient population base to merit large investments from the private sector.

Operating in Idaho has been a part of the Port of Whitman County model for more than a decade, with a little less than 10 miles of fiber-optic lines in Latah County.

That infrastructure, as well as what the Port of Whitman County has in conjunction with the Port of Lewiston, ties into a larger network in Whitman County.

Working outside geographical boundaries is something all ports in Washington are allowed to do as long as the activities benefit their constituencies, Poire said. “There are numerous companies based in Whitman County with branch operations in Lewiston and Nez Perce County. Connectivity between facilities and work-at-home opportunities are commonplace in today’s work environment.”

What else the Port of Whitman County might do in Idaho is not clear, but Poire didn’t entirely rule out new expansion in Nez Perce County.

“The Port of Whitman County,” he said, “has no plans at this time to extend its network in Nez Perce County beyond the port district in North Lewiston and across the bridge.”

Williams may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2261.