Port of Lewiston manager sets sights on attracting big cargo

By Sandra L. Lee of the Tribune

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Port of Lewiston has started the process of gathering $5.75 million to more than double the size of its 30-year-old dock and build a new pad for a larger crane capable of handling massive industrial equipment.

The port is in discussions with oil and other companies, many related to energy production, about moving oversized cargo to inland destinations, David Doeringsfeld, the port manager, told Nez Perce County commissioners Monday.

Those include 140-ton modules headed for the tar sands area in Alberta, Canada, and components of wind, oil and coal powered generation plants. Some cargo could be larger, he said.

He is leaving today for a meeting in Calgary to talk about the movement of such cargo into the interior of the United States, he said.

The port expansion proposal doesn’t at this time include installation of a new crane, which also would be necessary to handle cargo of that size. Doeringsfeld said he is working with a Tri-Cities company to come up with specifications for both the crane and the pad it would sit on and an engineering firm is doing cost estimates for the project.

A 150-foot expansion to the present 120-foot dock would allow two barges to be loaded or unloaded at the same time, which would improve customer service. Now, only one barge can be handled at a time, and the port has to wait for a tug to return to move it. Some barges are 160 feet long, Doeringsfeld said.

If successful, the two components could provide an additional eight to 24 related jobs, he said.

Doeringsfeld asked and received the commissioners’ endorsement of the project, which includes acting as the sponsor for a $500,000 Idaho Rural Community Development Block Grant. A public hearing is required before submitting the grant application. The deadline is March 16.

A federal appropriation request has been submitted, and other funding sources are being examined, including an Idaho Department of Agriculture freight mobility program, the new federal stimulus program and issuance of revenue bonds.

Revenue bonds would be contingent on a signed contract with a freight company, he said.

The greater benefit, Doeringsfeld said, is the number of jobs that would be retained within Nez Perce County because of the greater access to foreign markets. That’s where all the county’s agriculture market is headed, he said.

The port was encouraged to apply for the money this year because the rural block grant funding is expected to dry up next year, said Christine Frei, executive director of the Clearwater Economic Development Association based at Lewiston.

The county’s road department director, Douglas R. Moore, cautioned county roads aren’t adequate to support the type of loads being considered.

The companies involved are working with the Idaho Transportation Department on routes, primarily U.S. Highway 12 to Missoula, and what alterations would be needed, Doeringsfeld said.

Lee may be contacted at [email protected]
or (208) 848-2266.