The erection of the new gantry crane at the Port of Umatilla this year will bring to completion the most ambitious maritime infrastructure project that has been undertaken in the port's 65-year history. Skilled tradesmen have been manufacturing and assembling components for nearly a year in the Seattle fabrication plant of Ederer Cranes.

Getting the container crane operational will allow customers in the region to move their products more efficiently and effectively than ever before.

Port officials have been working with members of the congressional delegations of Oregon and Washington since December 2000 to add this feature to the Columbia/Snake River navigation system.

Senators Gordon Smith, R-Ore., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., each played an integral role in supporting the port's request for the federal appropriations necessary to improve the region's ability to participate in the global economy.

The dynamic nature of international steamship lines moving to larger vessels, which call at larger ports in an effort to have the most competitive transoceanic scheduled movements of goods has, and continues to have, a dramatic impact to our region's economy.

Recent decisions of carriers that will call, or have ceased to call, at the Port of Portland, have created ripples in trade patterns far beyond the Columbia Basin. This remains a difficult challenge to the Port of Umatilla, which is somewhat dependent on the actions and decisions of others.

The Port of Umatilla continues to work with their public and private partners (Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, city of Hermiston, Eugene Water and Electric Board, and Diamond Generating Co.) on the Wanapa Energy Center. Wanapa is a proposed 1,200-megawatt, gas-fired turbine generation facility to be built in two phases. The intent of the project is to address projected megawatt shortfalls in the nation's power supply.

The Wanapa Energy Center Final Environmental Impact Statement was recently completed. Following a lengthy process including public input to the project, approval to proceed was given by the Environmental Protection Agency, thus allowing the partners to move forward with power sales, financing, construction, generation and transmission of electricity.

Given the continuing conflict in the Middle East, volatile motor fuel prices serve to motivate various schemes that address national dependency on foreign fuels.

This is a cyclical pattern that revisits economic developers with the predictability of the seasons. Whenever crude oil prices spike, alternative energy proposals abound. These proposals include bio-fuels, ethanol, hydrogen and so forth.

Agricultural regions are particularly susceptible to some of these technologies. That being the case, the Port of Umatilla has hosted and worked with several organizations from producers of crops to corporate proponents of various technologies. A successful enterprise will have strong technical experience, deep financial backing, and sophisticated marketing presence. The challenge is to find an entity with all of the necessary components to succeed.

One of the most important pieces of proposed infrastructure in the Port of Umatilla is an airport arterial linking Interstate 84 with the Pendleton airport. The largest tracts of industrial property in this sector of the port district lack adequate roads and highways to properly advance the industrial development necessary to allow Pendleton to grow beyond the confines of the valley floor. This is a high priority project that will require cooperation from federal, state, port, county, city and private partners.

The airport arterial has the support of all of the necessary public partners as well as the Round-Up City Development Corp. Pendleton MayorPhillip Houk has appointed a Progress Board to help cooperatively advance this project.

The Port of Umatilla has been working with the Umatilla County Critical Groundwater Taskforce, several irrigation districts, the Hermiston Development Corporation, the Confederated Tribes and others to try to address the crucial need of water for fish, farms, families and factories.

There is insufficient groundwater in the western side of the port district for all of the societal demands being placed on that resource.

Surface water from the Columbia River is an important key to progress in every sector of society. We intend to continue to work with all stakeholders in the region to insure that adequate water in terms of quantity and quality are available for fish, agriculture, municipalities, and industry.

The Port of Umatilla moves forward with the firm conviction that whether we are addressing international trade, energy projects, community development, infrastructure or the prudent use of natural resources, partnerships and cooperation will see us through. We commend all those who see a need and reach out to fill it.

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Kim B. Puzey has been general manager of the Port of Umatilla since 1994.

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