Lewiston port studies fiber-optic network

The Port of Lewiston might link into a fiber-optic cable network in Asotin County.

The port will pay a consultant $12,000 to explore the possibility of creating a connection that would serve Nez Perce County, said David Doeringsfeld, Port of Lewiston manager.

Lots of questions need to be answered to determine how feasible the idea is, Doeringsfeld said. “This is just the first baby step.”

An initial look indicated legislative action would be needed to give the port authority to be involved. The port has no idea how much it would cost, what the route might be or what need exists, Doeringsfeld said.

“Until we get more information, it’s going to be pretty hard to react to it,” said Jerry Klemm, president of the port commission.

That discussion occurred during a meeting where the commissioners also heard reports about streets, EKO, extra-long loads and a proposed package handling and distribution center.

Port commissioners identified unspecified street, sewer and water infrastructure in North Lewiston as their top priority for the Lewiston Urban Renewal Agency projects, after Doeringsfeld provided a five-item list that included repairs on Sixth Avenue North.

Sixth Avenue North is one of about two ways trucks go between U.S. Highway 12/95 and the port’s container dock. It is also where Swift Transportation, a trucking company, has a hub and the Port of Lewiston has its office.

“There’s a lot of truck traffic that goes through there and you can’t have it turn into a gravel road,” Doeringsfeld said after the meeting.

Klemm wondered if the Urban Renewal Agency should be involved in repairs on a Lewiston road. “Is that a good expense when the city ought to be doing it?”

Another challenge facing the Port of Lewiston involves one of its tenants, EKO, a business that makes compost from yard waste and biosolids -leftovers from treating sewage.

Odors from EKO continue to reach some Lewiston residents, said Dave Beuke, a Lewiston resident who’s a member of the Lewis-Clark Valley Air Quality Advisory Commission.

The issue could be resolved by moving EKO’s operations to the top of the Lewiston Hill and setting up more than one place in Lewiston to accept yard waste, Beuke said.

Smells from the process would dissipate more quickly if it wasn’t hemmed in by the canyon wall, Beuke said. A concern about moving EKO farther from the city has been that residents would dump yard waste instead of making a longer drive.

The city is talking with EKO about options, and the port will request the city tell the port what the plans are as soon as possible, Doeringsfeld said.

Earlier the city indicated to the port it would have no trouble reporting back by July 2013, Doeringsfeld said.

“I don’t want to just kick them out and say, ‘You’re done. I’m sorry. You’re homeless now,’ ” said Mary Hasenoehrl, a port commissioner.

As the port contemplates what to do about EKO, it’s expanding its container dock from 125 feet to 275 feet in a project that should be finished by the end of next summer, Doeringsfeld said.

The port recently had to turn away a company that wanted to move a 140-foot wind turbine through the port on its way to Montana, Doeringsfeld said.

Had the dock addition been finished, the port could have accepted the job, Doeringsfeld said.

Besides the dock upgrade, the port is in the process of selling seven acres for a package sorting and distribution center near the Nez Perce County Jail that would employ less than 25 people.

That deal is on track with a site visit scheduled at the end of the month to iron out issues such as where the sewer line should go, Doeringsfeld said.

The tenant that would occupy the property has not been identified. Fischer & Co. is the business that has a tentative agreement to buy the land from the Port of Lewiston. The corporate real estate firm identifies FedEx as a client on its website.

“We do not have anything to report as of today,” said Bryan Iams, a FedEx spokesman in Pittsburgh.

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