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Commentaries and editorials

Pacific Northwest Waterways Association
Gets New Executive Director

by Matthew Weaver
Capital Press, February 18, 2022

"Making sure we can advocate for funding for the infrastructure that will ultimately
support the farmers and help them be competitive in the global market,"

-- Heather Stebbings, PNWA's new Executive Director

Graphic: Lower Snake River dams combined with their Compensation Plan hatceries are the high cost producers of the FCRPS. Heather Stebbings is the new executive director of the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, the organization that speaks for farmers and others who depend on the Snake and Columbia rivers to transport grains and goods.

She replaces Kristen Meira, who departed Feb. 17 after 20 years with the organization, including 10 as executive director.

Meira joined PNWA member American Cruise Lines as its Pacific Northwest director of government affairs.

Stebbings previously worked at the association for 13 years, directing communications and government relations, beginning in 2006.

"In some ways I feel like I'm coming home a little bit," Stebbings told the Capital Press.

Her goal is to provide consistency and continue to be a partner for the agriculture community, she said.

"Making sure we can advocate for funding for the infrastructure that will ultimately support the farmers and help them be competitive in the global market," she said.

She left the association to work for the Port of Vancouver and then Shaver Transportation.

"So I stayed in the family, somewhat," she said.

But she missed being able to dive in on issues and projects, and PNWA's membership.

"So the idea of coming back and being able to do that again in a different and new way ... and chart the path for the future was a really exciting opportunity," she said.

Stebbings studied applied mathematics at the University of Connecticut.

Her interest in the projects the association was working on grew "organically," she said. She loves the strategic element of connecting with people and finding creative ways to help the organization's messaging resonate.

"I find maritime to be just a very interesting world, so many different facets," she said. "The people are so wonderful that we work with. ... People stay in this industry forever, so there's a lot of old friends."

The association's key mission is to ensure that federal policies and funding are in place to maintain infrastructure for trade, transportation and energy production.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is funded annually, and PNWA relays to lawmakers the value of navigation as they determine funding.

The association's broad membership spans the Puget Sound, Oregon coast and the Columbia-Snake River system.

The Snake River dams remain a hot topic, she said.

"Something we really need to be protecting, and making sure we're out there telling the story of those projects and the value they provide to the region," she said.

Stebbings' biggest concern is ensuring that decision makers and the public understand the value of transportation and particularly water infrastructure.

"That's something that's been a challenge for a long time," she said. "Mainly because people see roads, they see the rail activity. They don't always pay attention to what's going on on the water side."

Stebbings praised Meira for broadening and strengthening PNWA membership.

"I think that will really only help us as we look to bring dollars back here and support for the projects that we have," she said.

"Heather is a proven, well-rounded leader with deep experience and relationships in our industry, across the Northwest, and in Washington, D.C.," Glen Squires, Washington Grain Commission CEO and PNWA board president, said in a press release. "We are pleased to welcome her back to the PNWA team and are enthusiastic about her leadership and the continued success of the association."

Related Pages:
Speak Up Now in Favor of Snake River Dams by Kristin Meira, Capital Press, 3/27/20
Snake River Dams -- Setting the Record Straight by Kristin Meira, Capital Press, 5/6/19
Disputes Meira's Claims by Chris Norden, Lewiston Tribune, 1/27/19
Don't Expect "Real Information" from Meira's Creative Spin by Bonnie Schonefeld, Lewiston Tribune, 1/14/19

Matthew Weaver
Pacific Northwest Waterways Association Gets New Executive Director
Capital Press, February 18, 2022

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