Corps Of Engineers To Study Improvements To Lower Columbia River Turning Basins

Leadership from the Ports of Longview and Kalama, Wash., and the Portland Engineer District have agreed to fund an estimated $2.1 million study of potential improvements to lower Columbia River turning basins.

Currently, there are very few places on the lower Columbia to turn large, fully loaded ships. These vessels need to be turned around before passing through Longview, Wash., when Pacific Northwest storms force Columbia River Bar closures for unsafe conditions.

“It’s critical for us to ensure the Columbia River Federal Navigation Channel is reliable and safe,” said Col. Michael Helton, Portland Engineer District commander. “An additional turning basin and improvements to another in the system will provide additional safety in the lower river if the bar conditions require a vessel to change its course,” he said.

The primary benefit of improvements to the turning basins at the Ports of Kalama and Longview would be a decrease in transportation delay costs. 

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“Our region’s economy relies on the safe and efficient navigation of the Columbia River,” said Dan Stahl, Port of Longview chief executive officer. “Public investments in river infrastructure, such as the turning basins, ensure the Port of Longview can continue to safely move commerce to and from international markets while driving the local economy for decades to come.”

Cargo volumes have increased 17.4 percent, and larger, deeper-drafting vessels are making increased use of the river system.

“The value of our partnerships with the Corps, neighboring ports and our stakeholders on the river can’t be overstated enough,” said Patrick Harbison, Port of Kalama Commission president. “This important new infrastructure will assure the Port of Kalama’s continued growth, while providing systemwide improvements to navigational safety on the Columbia River.”

Corps staff anticipate that improvements in the Longview and Kalama area would most efficiently serve the purpose with minimal environmental impacts and do so in the most congested areas of the river.

The Corps-led study will make recommendations on navigation improvements to Congress, which would then need to authorize and fund the work.

The Columbia River is the No. 1 U.S. export gateway for wheat and barley, the No. 2 U.S. export gateway for corn and soy and the No. 1 U.S. export gateway for West Coast mineral bulk. The Columbia River system is also a national leader for wood exports and auto imports and exports.