Bonneville Lock Closure Starting to
by Elaine Williams
Lack of cruise boat traffic in area could cost half a million dollars;
35 wheat barges also waiting for lock to reopen
The Lewiston-Clarkston Valley will lose at least half a million dollars from a disruption in cruise boat traffic because of the temporary closure of a navigation lock at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.
That estimate was provided Friday by Port of Clarkston Manager Wanda Keefer.
She has been following what is happening at the dam. September is high season for vessels that cover a route that includes stops in Clarkston, Portland, Ore., and Astoria on the Snake and Columbia rivers.
The port had forecast that 2,250 passengers would visit Clarkston in September, arriving on seven vessels operated by four cruise lines.
Now, in the best-case scenario, 700 of those passengers will still make the trip. That might be possible because two boats, the American Empress and the American Pride, are upstream from Bonneville Dam, the dam on the Columbia River that's closest to Portland.
The lock at Bonneville was closed unexpectedly Sept. 5 because of an issue that turned out to be cracked concrete.
Crews are working around the clock to repair the damage and the lock is expected to reopen Sept. 30.
Potentially, the American Empress and the American Pride could still do the portion of the journey between Clarkston to just upstream of the dam, and then bus passengers to other destinations on the trip, Keefer said.
"They can almost put together the same itinerary they planned," she said.
But she doesn't have any confirmation from the cruise lines that operate those boats that they will do that, and attempts by the Tribune on Friday to reach the cruise lines were not successful.
The tour boat industry isn't the only sector of the economy suffering because of the problems at Bonneville Dam.
In the midst of harvest, wheat farmers have lost what is often the least expensive way to get their grain from north central Idaho and southeastern Washington to Portland, where it is loaded onto ocean-going ships.
Tidewater Barge Lines has 25 vessels carrying wheat stranded behind Bonneville Dam and Shaver Transportation has another 10 barges stuck.
Employees at the two barge lines Friday didn't have information of what would happen to the cargo.
In spite of the bottleneck, Sam White, chief operating officer of Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative in Genesee, said he believes most producers will be able to adjust.
"There are times when you would absolutely need those (shipments) to make space, but I think we got past that hurdle," White said.
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