Benefits of Snake River barging continue to grow

Contact: Kristin Meira, Executive Director
Pacific Northwest Waterways Association
503-234-8556 direct
503-757-8716 mobile
[email protected]

** For Immediate Release **

Benefits of Snake River barging continue to grow

Barging is in the news, and the timing is predictable. For the first time in eight years, the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers is planning routine maintenance dredging of a small quantity of sand
to ensure continued safe navigation in a federally authorized channel. This shouldn’t be news,
and it shouldn’t be controversial, except that the navigation channel in question is near the
Snake River dams. This little bit of geography guarantees costly litigation, newspaper
headlines, fundraising, rallies, and delay, and this time is no different.

Dam breaching advocates continue to claim that barging on the Lower Snake is drying up in
recent years, and can easily be replaced by rail. Their analysis is fatally flawed and wrong.
They selectively developed their numbers, and ignored the fact that the river was shut down for
four months in 2010 and 2011 to make repairs and other investments in the future reliability of
the system. 1They failed to acknowledge that 2009 wheat exports were low across the country,
not just in our region. They ignored the worldwide recession that has depressed shipping
numbers globally, including here at home2.

Research commissioned by the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association indicates that freight
traffic on the Lower Snake is rising and currently trending toward pre‑recession levels. Indeed,
we are expecting improved numbers for 2012 and 2013. David Doeringsfeld, Executive Director
of the Port of Lewiston, reports, “The Port is experiencing a strong increase in container
volumes as the U.S. economy improves. Container volumes increased 28% in 2012 and are up
41% through June 2013. Construction of a $2.9 million container dock extension is underway to
accommodate projected container and break bulk cargo growth.”

Other facilities are seeing similar increases in activity. “Grain traffic continues to grow on the
Lower Snake River,” states Arvid Lyons, General Manager of Lewis-Clark Terminal Inc. which
operates large grain elevators in Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington. “Lewis-Clark
Terminals has handled 130% of our 10 year average in each of the last 3 years, so for us the
river is getting used more now than in the past. The efficiencies and economics of barging just
can’t be beat.”

Dam breaching advocates have also claimed that dredging costs outweigh the benefits of
barging, and that barging is subsidized. Unfortunately, they have based their claims on flawed
studies of the benefits and costs of dredging. Our economic analysis proves that the benefits of
dredging exceed the costs by at least $5.5 million annually, even when just accounting for the
benefits to wheat shipments alone, a major crop in the Northwest. The dam breaching
advocates don’t use the correct cost of the dredging, they don’t use accurate tonnage numbers,

2, Figure 1-2
and they don’t account for employment, cruise boat calls, and a multitude of other economic

“It’s clear that anti-dam groups are simply seizing on this issue to continue their tired drum beat
for removal of the Snake dams,” said Terry Flores, Executive Director of NW RiverPartners.
“Fortunately, Northwest citizens aren’t buying it. Recent independent opinion polling by DHM
Research, Portland Oregon, shows strong public support for the dams, and the clean renewable
power, irrigation, flood control, commerce and other benefits they provide.”

Washington businesses understand the importance of barging and continue to be supportive.
“We believe that safe navigation of the Snake-Columbia River is essential,” said Don C Brunell,
President of the Association of Washington Business. “Ongoing dredging, as with lock
maintenance, is needed to insure that goods such as wheat, logs, wood chips, refined fuels and
other products move up and down the rivers unimpeded.”

“Barges can carry more freight per gallon of fuel usage than other modes, making it the most
efficient and environmentally sensitive type of freight transportation,” said Robert Curcio,
President of Tidewater Barge Lines. “The Columbia Snake River System is the top wheat
export gateway in the nation and maintaining the viability of our river transportation system is
imperative. For those with access to the river, our river system plays a major role in ensuring
that our country’s farmers and manufacturers have the ability to economically export their goods
into the competitive international marketplace.”

“As the Northwest continues to ship more commodities to the export markets, there is going to
be even more of a demand for transportation routes through the Northwest in the future with
new export projects currently in the development phase. That is a positive for barging as it will
give us an opportunity to grow our business, hire more skilled labor, and move more product,”
added Curcio.

Recent investments made by the federal government in the navigation system have been
followed by growth in private industry. Rob Rich, Vice President of Marine Services for Shaver
Transportation explains “As a family owned, 133 year old company, Shaver Transportation
Company is careful and measured in its business decisions. That is why we have invested over
$7 million in new grain barges this year – the first since our purchase of two grain barges in
2002. We have seen many private investments in barge handling facilities both in the upper
Columbia and Snake Rivers. A balanced, competitive and responsive river transportation
system is essential to our regional economy. That is why we continue to not only support, but
invest in our vital river system.”

The dredging in question would happen during a winter “in-water work window” – the time of
year biologists deem best for the fish. The sediment in question is so clean, it will be used
downstream on the Snake near Knoxway Canyon to create resting and rearing habitat for
juvenile salmon, primarily fall Chinook3. Unlike most other navigation channels around the
country, dredging is needed fairly infrequently on the Lower Snake River. Small parts of the
navigation channel were dredged in 1999, and not again until 2006. The federal navigation
channel has been maintenance-free for nearly eight years. The quantities proposed for removal
are a fraction of what is dredged in other river systems across the nation.

3USACE Walla Walla District.

Some groups have also claimed that barging can simply be replaced by shipments by rail and
truck. Kristin Meira, Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association states
“We know that barging is good for the environment and for people. There are fewer spills
associated with barging, and fewer accidents and fatalities.4 A typical 4-barge tow on the
Columbia Snake River System is the equivalent of about 140 rail cars, or 538 trucks on the
highway. We strongly support rail, trucking and barging – all three must be maintained and
efficient for cargo to flow. Take away one entire mode, and there will be significant impacts to
the other two.”

“Barging on the Snake River has long-established benefits to the Pacific Northwest and the
nation as a whole,” said Charles Costanzo, Pacific Region Vice President for the American
Waterways Operators. “It’s the safest, most efficient and environmentally-sustainable means of
moving vast amounts of cargo. We need navigation on the entire Columbia-Snake River System
to be available and reliable. It’s a critical low-cost gateway that helps ensure economic vitality
for the Northwest.”

The Columbia Snake River System is significant national waterway, and plays a big role in
ensuring that our country’s farmers and manufacturers have the ability to export their goods in
competitive international markets. The Columbia Snake River System is the top wheat export
gateway in the nation, and second for soy.5The System is also tops on the West Coast for
wood exports and mineral bulk exports

PNWAis a non-profit trade association that advocates for federal policies and funding in
support of regional economic development. We represent over 130 public and private sector
member organizations in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and California. Members include public
ports, navigation, transportation, trade, tourism, agriculture, forest products, energy and local
government interests. Since our founding in 1934, PNWA led the way for development of
economic infrastructure for navigation, electric power and irrigated agriculture on the Columbia
and Snake River System. In 1971, we expanded, adding Oregon and Washington coastal port
members to provide a comprehensive regional perspective. Today, PNWA works with the U.S.
Congress, federal agencies and regional decision leaders on transportation, trade, energy and
environmental policies and projects to enhance economic vitality in the Pacific Northwest.

4 U.S. Maritime Administration.
5 U.S. Department of Agriculture.