Crowd favors dock expansion

  • Supporters at public hearing extoll benefits of lengthening container dock

Representatives of Clearwater Paper, Avista and six farming organizations were among those who said they favored the project Wednesday during the meeting at Sacajawea Junior High in Lewiston.

About 20 of those speaking wanted the Port of Lewiston to proceed with plans to lengthen its 125-foot container dock by 150 feet. Roughly 10 were against it.

The upgrade can’t be done without a permit from the corps because the arm of the federal government has jurisdiction for any work in navigable waters of the U.S.

One of the decisions the corps will make, likely by December, is whether it will require an environmental impact statement, a detailed analysis that would look at alternatives to the project.

People on both sides of the issue made arguments their stance was the best for the environment. Backers noted barging creates less air pollution than trains or trucks and reduces traffic congestion by reducing the number of semis on the road.

They also talked about the economic benefits of the port. Northern Idaho growers save anywhere from $1.6 million to $8 million a year barging wheat to Portland compared with the costs of rail, said Bill Flory, a Winchester farmer who serves on the Idaho Wheat Commission.

That money gets spent in local communities, Flory said. “We need a port with a complete product mix of services.”

Opponents asked for an EIS, noting the dock would be constructed in a spot that has less than 15 feet of water.

Concerns about sediment collection are so intense the corps is spending $13 million to study how to protect Lewiston from flooding as the levels rise, said Brett Haverstick of Friends of the Clearwater.

A corps official couldn’t immediately confirm anything about the study.

Opponents also argued the longer dock would turn the port into more of a destination for megaloads that take up two lanes of traffic on roadways. “This proposed expansion is a boondoggle that should be regulated to the dust bin,” Haverstick said.

Jerry Myers of Lewiston said stopping the extension wouldn’t prevent megaloads from arriving in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. Some megaloads are going through the Port of Wilma, just west of Clarkston, Myers said.

Myers also noted the Port of Lewiston has been in the megaload business almost from its beginning. Some of the first oversized loads arrived in Lewiston shortly after slackwater in the 1970s, Myers said. They were steam dryers for tissue machines at Clearwater Paper.

Williams may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2261.© 2011 The Lewiston Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.