Tribune: Murky Debate Over Cost of Dredging Snake River

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In December, officials at the Port of Lewiston and Port of Clarkston pointed to a stuck barge—packed with 3,500 tons of grain that was going nowhere fast—as a prime example of why the Snake River needed a serious dredging of sediment.

But this morning's Lewiston Tribune reports that a public hearing concerning dredging sparked a fair amount of debate Thursday in Lewiston.

"We need the dredging, that is all there is to it," Port of Clarkston Commissioner Rick Davis told the gathering, according to the Tribune. "We just need to get it dredged for the economics of the valley."

But Lin Laughy of Kamiah, who has successfully tangled with big oil companies and the Idaho Department of Transportation over mega-loads that make their way up the river before being crawled across Idaho highways, pushed back, claiming that it would cost more than $30 million in tax dollars over the next decade to maintain the shipping channel.

The Tribune reports that John Fisher of Juliaetta said taxpayers couldn't continue to shoulder the burden.

"Does it make sense to keep subsidizing barge transportation at a cost of many tens of millions of dollars when barge traffic is going down as I understand it?" asked Fisher. "We're facing multi-trillion-dollar budget deficits in the country and you're talking about spending tens and tens of millions of dollars, that is not cost-effective."

But the Tribune reports that river system supporters reminded the gathering that the barges and, more importantly, their cargo are "an economic engine that fuels growth in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley and surrounding agricultural-oriented communities."

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