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Much-debated dock project advances

A proxy for the coal export debate, it and others will be heard by a state commission Jan. 15.

A much-debated dock reconstruction at the Port of St. Helens on the Columbia River — which has become a proxy in a wider debate about shipping coal via the Northwest to Asia — is among the half-dozen projects recommended for a share of $4 million in state transportation grants.

A panel voted Wednesday to forward it and other projects to the Oregon Transportation Commission, which will hear public comments on Jan. 15 and decide the grants on Feb. 19. The grants come from lottery-backed bonds through Connect Oregon, which funds transportation projects other than highways and bridges.

The commission has not released an agenda, but an Oregon Department of Transportation official says the public hearing is likely to be on the afternoon of Jan. 15 at the Red Lion Inn in Salem.

If the first round of Connect Oregon projects last summer is any indication of what is to come, most of the comments next week will focus on the $2 million in state money that the port seeks for reconstruction of a World War II-era dock at Port Westward near Clatskanie.

Australian-based Ambre Energy had proposed to match the port’s original request with $3 million to enable it to use Berth 2 to export coal to Asia.

Although the transportation commission rejected the original bid Aug. 20, the port now says it proposes to put up the $3 million match itself.

The coal would be mined in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana and moved by rail to Boardman, where it would be loaded onto barges for Clatskanie, and then onto ocean-going ships.

The Port of St. Helens project had been ranked seventh overall among 37 recommended for $42 million in funding last summer by a Connect Oregon review panel, and it landed in the top spot on the short list this time.

The Port of St. Helens did get $2 million in the earlier round, matched with $4.6 million from Global Partners, for reconstruction of Berth 1 to enable it to ship oil brought by train from North Dakota. That dock also is 70 years old, and that project ranked sixth overall on last summer’s list.

Others on the new short list, which far exceeds the $4 million available from grants:

• City of Eugene, $909,066 requested, matched by $227,267, for a 24-station, 170-bicycle Bike Share site that will link to a four-station, 40-bicycle site at the University of Oregon.

• Teevin Bros. Land & Timber Co., $2.34 million requested, matched with $668,312 from the company, to enable it to expand its site for rail-to-barge transfers in Rainier.

• Sause Bros., $965,148 requested, matched with $371,211 from the company, to acquire a reach stacker and forklift truck to enable it to move heavier cargo from trucks and trains onto barges in Rainier.

• Sisters Airport, $733,259 requested, matched by $916,574 from the airport, for various improvements.

• Columbia County Rider Transportation, $542,645 requested, matched by $135,661 from the county, for a transit center at U.S. 30 and West 2nd Street in Rainier.


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