US House Appropriations Committee Demands an I-5 Bridge Project that Protects River Commerce, Southwest Washington Jobs

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Jaime Herrera Beutler secures provision in Homeland Security bill report directing the CRC to not block commerce; congresswoman remains concerned that hundreds of Southwest Washington jobs will be lost 

WASHINGTON, May 22 -

Today the full U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved legislation expressing concern with the CRC’s proposed height, and directing U.S. Coast Guard to ensure that the CRC does not block river commerce.  

In its proposed fiscal year 2014 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations bill, the Appropriations Committee included report language submitted by Jaime Herrera Beutler that cites the “significant obstruction” the CRC poses to Columbia River navigation.  In addition to directing the Coast Guard to protect the region’s economic interests, the bill outlines the severe impact the CRC’s current bridge height would have on area employers – including the livelihoods of local men and women.   Members of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved the bill unanimously.

“Right now, the CRC’s design will -- at a minimum -- disrupt local jobs, and could potentially cost men and women of Southwest Washington and Oregon their livelihoods,” said Jaime.  “I understand that the CRC is pursuing mitigation deals with companies that employ hundreds of Southwest Washington and Oregon residents, but we deserve to know what will happen to those jobs once the deals are signed.  The CRC should provide assurances that jobs won’t be moved out of state or out of country as a result of building this bridge that’s too low, either now or 18 months down the road.  If the CRC can’t do that, then the Coast Guard should not permit this project.”

The bill report language is below, and also located on page 68 of the bill report:

Columbia River Crossing Bridge Permitting

The Coast Guard is currently in the process of reviewing the permit request for a new Columbia River Crossing bridge between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. While there are many advantages to building a new bridge, the Committee is concerned with the proposed clearance height of the planned bridge, which would significantly limit navigation of the river by numerous users up river.  This inability to navigate may lead to devastating economic losses for the impacted users and could also negatively affect the surrounding communities. Over $500,000,000 in economic activity each year could be lost in addition to terminating 500 jobs in the surrounding area. This significant obstruction to the free flow of navigation on the Columbia River is very troubling. Furthermore, mitigation is limited for affected river users because the existing infrastructure cannot be replicated. To address these concerns, the Committee directs the Coast Guard to consider the economic impacts of the planned bridge including impacts due to lost use of the waterway and to therefore, ensure that, within reason, the river commerce is not blocked.  The Coast Guard shall provide a report to the Committee on those economic impacts and any proposed mitigation activities to address lost access to the waterway. The Coast Guard shall provide this report prior to issuing a permit for the bridge.