Bush Supports Funds
by William McCall, Associated Press
PORTLAND - The port that serves as the nation's main conduit for shipping wheat across the Pacific Ocean may be getting enough federal money to begin deepening the Columbia River if Congress acts on a recommendation announced by President Bush during his visit to Oregon on Friday.
The president was emphatic about his support for the project to dredge the river channel to 43 feet from its current depth of 40 feet to make room for the next generation of international ships and boost capacity at the Port of Portland.
"I'm not the kind of guy that likes to stand up and say this is going to happen and it doesn't happen," Bush told a crowd of about 300 business leaders, government officials and Republican supporters.
"That's why these government officials are here, to hear it clearly from the president," Bush said.
But Democrats were quick to point out the president rejected an initial funding request for $15 million to kick off the dredging project when he submitted his budget proposal to Congress in February.
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., called the recommendation to add the $15 million to the budget request an election year "flip-flop" calculated to win voter support in the Northwest.
"This is the same president who has allowed thousands of Oregon jobs to be shipped overseas and whose out-of-touch economic policies have caused a huge financial squeeze on middle-class families," Blumenauer said.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who was on hand to hear the president's announcement, was more moderate in her assessment of the funding request by Bush, praising fellow Northwest lawmakers for their bipartisan support. But she added the project will take years to complete even if dredging begins on schedule next summer.
Bush said presidents since Thomas Jefferson, who sent explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to the Northwest, have recognized the national economic importance of the Columbia River.
Speaking at the Port of Portland's Terminal 6, the Columbia River dock that handles containerized cargo, Bush said the project can balance environmental protection with increased maritime traffic.
Bush said deepening the river by another 3 feet will allow the average ship to carry 300 more containers to the Port of Portland, saving an estimated $68 million in transportation costs.
It also would allow an extra 6,000 tons of grain to be loaded on ships.
He noted the average cargo ship draft in 1970 was 25 to 30 feet, and now is 41 to 45 feet.
But the day before Bush arrived, one of two remaining container shipping lines serving Portland confirmed plans to stop calling on the port in December.
K Line officials told The Oregonian newspaper the Japanese carrier would follow Korean shipper Hyundai Merchant Marine by ending Portland service this year. Hyundai plans to halt service in September, leaving only Hanjin Shipping to handle container traffic on the Columbia, threatening hundreds of jobs.
Bush did not mention the decision by K Line, but he said the dredging project will create new jobs and ensure that farmers from the Northwest to the Midwest can ship wheat and other agricultural products to other Pacific ports.
'K' Line Shipping Will Drop Port Stop Richard Read & Jonathan Brinckman, The Oregonian, 8/13/4
Shipping Company to Pull Out of Portland by Jeff St. John, Tri-City Herald, 7/30/4
Hyundai Will End Service to Portland by Dylan Rivera, The Oregonian, 7/15/4
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs