The current Federal budget situation has reduced the Corps Operations & Maintenance budget dramatically, to the point that they are encouraging small ports across the Nation to look to their State Legislatures for funding.
The group from Ilwaco consisted of Jim Neva, Manager of the Port of Ilwaco; Dale Beasley, President of the Columbia River Crab Fishermen’s Assoc.; Dwight Eager, President of Bell Buoy Crab in Chinook; and Richard Carroll of Jessie’s Ilwaco Fish.
They met with every Senator from Washington, Oregon and Alaska, every member of Congress from Washington and Oregon, Congressmen from New York, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Congressional staffers working for key Congressional committees and Corps of Engineers leadership at the Pentagon. They insisted that maintenance of channels into these and other ports around the country are the responsibility of the Federal Government, not the individual State Legislatures.
They stressed the importance of these channels to the local economies. Private investment has been made with the understanding that these channels would be maintained. Planned expansion has been put on hold, awaiting assurance that these channels will be dependable by the commercial fishing fleet.
The Ilwaco and Chinook message was well received by every elected official visited. All could relate with similar port situations in their districts. This is a national problem that must be solved by Congress. The major problem is the lack of a Federal Budget. The continuing resolution makes it impossible to do projects that were not funded in the last approved budget and are not in the current President’s Budget, according to the Corps. The Sequester added to the problem by reducing the Corps Operations & Maintenance budget by $100 million, this year alone. These two channels had historically been maintained with Congressional earmarks, which are no longer available.
It became apparent that our challenge wasn’t to convince anyone of the importance of maintaining our entrance channels. It was the failure of mainstream America to be the focus of government. Solving this problem is elusive when elected officials refuse to talk to one another and “compromise” is no longer popular. There are thousands of small harbors across the Country in this same situation.
The response to the group was not all bad, though. Congresswoman Herrera-Beutler, Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell are fighting hard for us and are working on solutions to the problem, along with other Members of Congress from other states. The foursome urges everyone to contact Sen. Murray (www.murray.senate.gov), Senator Cantwell (www.cantwell.senate.gov) and Congresswoman Herrera-Beutler (www.jaimehb.house.gov), or any other Member of Congress you may know, or who may represent you and let them know that you support their efforts to continue Federal maintenance of these important small port channels.