Officials Seek Support
by Matthew Weaver
Jetties help minimize impact of waves in dangerous channel
The Columbia River system hasn't yet closed for scheduled lock repairs, but engineers and water agencies are already preparing for the next big fix.
The three jetties at the entrance to the Columbia River are deteriorating and in need of repair, they say.
Kristin Meira, Pacific Northwest Waterways Association government relations director, said the jetties, which guide the flow and sediment of the river, help to protect vessels as they enter from the Pacific Ocean.
The Columbia River bar has a long history of being treacherous, Meira said. The jetties help to minimize the wave action in the 55-foot deep channel at the mouth of the river.
The jetties were constructed in the late 1800s and improved in the early 1900s. Meira said they have deteriorated during the last few decades.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers performed a series of interim repairs in 2007 and examined what it would take to rehabilitate and reinforce them, Meira said.
The federal budget released in February for fiscal year 2011 included $750,000 to complete the study.
The association has requested $8.25 million from Congress to enable the corps to begin environmental and construction work on the jetties.
The appropriations process is proceeding slowly in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, neither of which has yet produced a 2011 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, Meira said.
"It is unknown whether or not those earmark requests have made it into the bills Congress will be producing, so we're in a watching and waiting period right now," she said.
Corps projects go through a rigorous authorization process before qualifying for the appropriations process, Meira said.
"These are all very deserving projects that have been fully vetted and fully authorized through rigorously studied programs," she said. "To call them earmarks is almost unfortunate."
The corps is still determining the total cost of the project, Meira said.
Through continual monitoring, the corps has determined the jetties will continue to perform their function for the next few years.
"We are not in imminent jeopardy of losing access to our river system," Meira said.
But the association and its members are keen to stay focused on the jetty project as the next challenge following the repair of all navigation locks on the Columbia and Snake rivers for 14 to 16 weeks beginning in December.
Repair of the jetties would not require a closure. Meira said the corps envisions the rehabilitation would be a 20-year project done in phases.
Meira advises farmers continue to mention their support for the Columbia-Snake River system and for the jetties and navigation locks, the structures that will require continued investment in the future.
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs