Murray Secures Millions for Columbia River Channel Deepening, Jetty Repair, and Shallow-Water Ports

Nov 07 2005

Federal funding to improve river navigation means safety, economic improvements for Southwest Washington

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today announced that she has secured a total of $33.2 million to help improve navigation and economic growth on the Columbia River. Today, a joint House-Senate conference committee approved the Energy and Water Appropriations bill for FY 2006. In the bill, Murray secured $15 million for the Columbia River Channel Improvement Project, $17 million to repair the jetties at the mouth of the Columbia River, and $1.2 million to dredge the ports of Chinook and Ilwaco.

“I'm proud to have secured this funding to improve navigation on the Columbia River, particularly in such a tight budget year," Murray said. "The Columbia River is an economic engine for Southwest Washington, and this deepening project means jobs and competitiveness for our entire region."

While the president's budget and the House of Representatives included $15 million for Channel Deepening, neither provided funding for jetty repair. However, if the jetties at the mouth of the Columbia River were to be breached, the channel deepening efforts would be wasted. As a longtime supporter of dredging efforts, and as a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water, Murray secured $17 million for the crucial jetty repair projects.

The increase in funding for the jetties is of particular significance because of the risk of imminent failure in two locations of the south jetty. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates that there is a 20 percent chance of failure this year, and that the risk will double each year that the issue is not addressed. The failure of the jetties could close down the mouth of the river to safe navigation.

"Now that we've climbed the mountain and undertaken the channel deepening, it's essential that we protect our investment by repairing the jetties at the mouth of the Columbia," Murray said. "It wasn't easy, since we didn't get support from the White House or the House of Representatives, but I know how important this funding is, and that's why I worked to provide it."

Critical Funding for Ports of Chinook and Ilwaco

Senator Murray also succeeded in securing a total of $1.2 million -- $600,000 each – for dredging at the Port of Chinook and the Port of Ilwaco. Neither the president's budget nor the House of Representatives included funding for these projects.

"I fought for this funding for the ports of Chinook and Ilwaco because I know we must maintain our shallow-water ports," Murray said. "These ports are a critical part of the economy of our rural communities, and I am proud to be able to support them. I will continue to use my position on the Energy and Water Subcommittee to make sure that all of our ports have the resources they need to flourish."

The Ports of Chinook and Ilwaco are located near the mouth of the Columbia River. Due to the build up of silt in the bay, fishermen can only access the bay and its fish and crab processing plant during extremely high tides. By dredging the channel, fishermen will have safe, reliable access to the channel and the processing plants.

Last month, Murray was named Legislator of the Year by the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association for her advocacy for Washington state's ports. (Read the text of Murray's remarks, in which she discusses the importance of these projects.)

Now that the Energy and Water bill has passed House-Senate negotiations, it goes back to each chamber for final approval. It will then go to the president to be signed into law.