Support for Vancouver's port

By:  Libby Clark
Source: The Columbian

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., on Tuesday announced she will push federal lawmakers to create a national freight strategy that includes dedicated funding for port infrastructure projects, including the Port of Vancouver’s West Vancouver Freight Access project.

In order to meet President Obama’s goal to double American exports within five years, multimodal freight transportation must become a national priority, Cantwell said during her visit to the Port of Vancouver on Tuesday.

“Before you ship products overseas, you have to move them cost-effectively,” Cantwell said.

Cantwell hasn’t yet determined the amount of funding she plans to request for freight projects under the proposal, she said. But if she succeeds, port officials plan to seek $25 million of the funding for the port’s freight access project, said Addison Jacobs, public affairs director at the port.

Access to such port-specific funding will be critical to obtaining the $50 million to $70 million the Port of Vancouver must raise to complete its $137 million freight access project over the next seven years, Jacobs said.

The port last year received $2.5 million for the project under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act but lost several other bids for federal funds.

“Ports have a tendency to fall through the cracks on infrastructure funding,” said Larry Paulson, executive director of the Port of Vancouver. “It’s a lack of understanding of what we accomplish … for economic development.”

Quick port tour

Cantwell’s comments came before a quick tour of the port’s $14 million Terminal 5 rail loop, under construction at the former Alcoa-Evergreen Aluminum site. Now about 80 percent complete, the project employs 20 full-time workers with contractor Rotschy Inc. in Vancouver, as well as about 80 other workers per day through subcontractors and suppliers, said Hans Schmeusser, project manager with Rotschy.

“This type of work has been very beneficial to us, it feeds a lot of families,” said Cornell Rotschy, vice president of Rotschy Inc.

The rail loop, the third phase of the port’s West Vancouver Freight Access project, is scheduled for completion in mid-June.

New freight infrastructure alone won’t fuel the port’s growth, however. A long-term national energy strategy that aims to expand renewable energy development will ultimately be needed to boost Vestas Americas’ import and export business through Vancouver, said Doug Macdonald, senior vice president of government relations with Vestas in Portland.

Macdonald is advocating for an extension of federal production tax credits for wind energy, as well as a national renewable energy standard. Such policies would ensure a continued market for Vestas turbines in the U.S., he said.

“There’s potential for increased business (at the port); we’re developing new product lines,” Macdonald said. “But our investment depends on having predictable policies in the U.S.”