Study will Quantify
by Elaine Williams
Clarkston and Lewiston ports win grant, which could bolster case for keeping four lower Snake River dams
A $110,000 government study looking at the impact of the cruise boat industry in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley might help make the case to keep the four lower Snake River dams.
The ports of Clarkston and Lewiston won a $55,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration this week to pay for half of the analysis, Clarkston Port Manager Wanda Keefer said at a Thursday port commission meeting.
The remainder will come from the commerce departments in Idaho and Washington, the ports of Lewiston, Clarkston and Whitman County and the cities of Lewiston and Clarkston, Keefer said.
The number of tourists frequenting the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley has been increasing.
The capacity of overnight passenger vessels docking in Clarkston, including crew members, climbed from 31,168 in 2017 to 78,166 in 2019, Keefer said.
If people cancel plans to travel abroad because of the COVID-19 virus, the growth could accelerate, she said.
"These floating hotels couldn't come up the river if the dams aren't there," Keefer said.
Economic development experts hope to learn exactly how many visitors the vessels are bringing to the area. They also want to gather data about how much money is spent by passengers, vessel employees and cruise boat companies purchasing goods or services.
The hope is that at least some of the report can be submitted during a public comment period in a process that will help determine the future of the four dams on the lower Snake River.
The Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration are expected to issue a draft environmental impact statement later this month, detailing how operation of federal dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers affect protected salmon and steelhead.
The document will include an alternative that examines breaching the lower Snake River dams.
Once the document is released, the agencies will hold a series of public meetings around the Pacific Northwest to introduce it to the public and collect comments on it. The comment period is expected to last at least 45 days.
The study the port is planning isn't the only way it's trying to support the cruise boat industry. The port is pursuing plans for a 15-foot-wide and 30-foot-long floating dock at its 14th Street dock that is expected to cost $60,000 to $70,000.
The port is applying for a $35,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help defray the cost.
The new dock would be a place where cruise boat passengers could board jet boats for tours of Hells Canyon.
The existing configuration of the 14th Street dock, which was once where the port unloaded sawdust for what is now Clearwater Paper, doesn't allow that.
The 14th Street dock is used by the American Empress, the largest vessel that calls in Clarkston, because the water there is deeper than at the port's cruise boat dock near the Quality Inn.
The American Empress passengers, which include many seniors with mobility issues, now get off the boat and then take buses to the cruise boat dock to board the jet boats in a time-consuming process, Keefer said.
In other business, the port commissioners approved allowing customers of Dave's Golf in Clarkston to use a golf practice cage when they are being fitted for clubs. Only one golfer supervised by an employee will be permitted at a time.
Last month, the commissioners banned golfers from hitting balls at the driving range at Dave's Golf until it replaces nets.
That decision was aimed at addressing concerns that balls were landing outside the driving range and causing damage, Keefer said.
"Our goal is just to keep people safe," she said.
The port is involved in the issue because it leases the land where the driving range is located to the Quality Inn, which subleases it to Dave's Golf.
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs