Columbia River Dredging Brings Investments

In November 2010, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the Columbia River Channel Improvement Project to deepen the 110-mile Lower Columbia River navigation channel from -40 to -43 feet.

The 20-year project cost $183 million and was a combined effort between the federal government, the States of Oregon and Washington and the Ports of Portland, Vancouver, Longview, Kalama, Woodland and St. Helens. The goal was to make the region competitive in the long-term and ensure that the infrastructure was in place to handle project growth and increased cargo movement.

In just five years, the region saw a remarkable return on investment. To mark the anniversary of the completion of the project, the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA) and the Port of Portland have partnered to announce a new report on the significant return on investment this project has seen.

This report, titled Impacts of the Channel Deepening on the Columbia River, shows that since the channel deepening project was completed, over $1.08 billion in public and private investments have been made.

Over $500 million alone has been invested in the seven grain export facilities on the Lower Columbia River, to ensure that the system can handle an increase in wheat, corn and soy products. Other investments include improved rail and freight handling facilities, additional tugs and barges, and construction of the largest floating dry dock in the United States. The report also looks at proposed developments for the river system, which could add an additional $5.15 billion in investments.

The Columbia River Channel Improvement Project is the perfect example of how to make smart infrastructure investments and proves that if you build it, they will come. In just five years, we’ve seen more investment on the Lower River than any of us could have imagined,” stated Kristin Meira, Executive Director of PNWA. “The Columbia Snake River System is an incredible resource that provides farmers as far away as the Midwest access to international markets. The deepening project was key to ensuring we are ready to handle more cargo than ever before.”

The deepening of the channel has led to an increase in volumes of bulks at our facilities since ships can travel more fully loaded. In turn, our customers have taken notice and invested in their facilities on our properties to expand their own capacity—a win for our customers and for the Port. The ROI on the deepening project is something we can all take great pride in,” said Curtis Robinhold Port of Portland Deputy Executive Director. 

This deepening project supports the entire Columbia Snake River System, a significant national trade corridor. The Columbia/Snake is the top wheat export gateway in the nation, and second for soy. The inland barging system moves over 9 million tons of cargo annually and feeds the Lower Columbia River export gateway, which handles 46 million tons of cargo annually, valued at over $24 billion.