Grant for Lewiston port expansion wastes valuable federal funds

NOTE TO REPORTERS — This statement is issued in response to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s Wednesday visit to Lewiston, where he announced a $1.3 million federal grant for the expansion of the heavily subsidized port.

The grant, awarded in June, will allow the Lewiston port to double the size of its already under-utilized container dock. Funding came from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program.

IRU urged the Transportation Department to deny Lewiston’s grant application. Idaho received a total of $3 million in TIGER money, and Washington State projects were awarded $10 million in funding.

In response to Wednesday’s event, Idaho Rivers United Executive Director Bill Sedivy said:

“Wednesday’s visit by Secretary LaHood was nothing more than election year rah-rah for an obsolete water transportation system facing ever-declining business. Port business has been declining steadily since 2000, and the port has never been self-sustaining. Soon, taxpayers will also be asked to fund a multi-year dredging program to keep this declining waterway system operational. 

“While it’s likely that most of the projects funded by these TIGER grants are good infrastructure investments, the Port of Lewiston project is not. The port project is a waste of valuable federal dollars, not an investment.

“Keeping the waterway functioning is also bad for salmon.

“The Obama Administration has made a bad mistake in Lewiston — trading many salmon and river-recreation jobs for a small number of highly speculative jobs at the port. This money would provide far more benefit to the Lewiston area and the Palouse if invested in rail infrastructure, which is where commodity shipping in the area is headed — and should be heading.”