By Sean Aaron Cruz
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” –Eleanor Roosevelt*
September 18, 2012
Portland, Oregon—The Oregonian published a remarkable time-lapse video of a barge passing downriver from Lewiston to Kalama today, titled “GreatRiver of the West.”
The video is remarkable in that it documents the vast reaches of still water that the barge requires for passage.
There no passenger or excursion boats that make this journey, either upriver or down, so all of this water—and the Columbia Gorge itself—is held captive for the exclusive benefit of barges such as these.
These water levels are destructive to fish passage and fish habitat everywhere along the Columbia and Snake rivers upstream from the Bonneville dam.
These water levels exist as a multi-billion dollar public subsidy for the exclusive benefit of a single barge monopoly and a small number of increasingly foreign corporate interests. They want to barge coal through the Scenic Protection Area for export, arguing the supposed inevitability of market demand and, more specifically to those of us who live and work in or near the Columbia Gorge, job creation.
The Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports is running an intensive campaign built around the theme of “Creating NW Jobs”, touting the plusses of turning the Scenic Area into a coal chute.
They want to talk about the jobs they would create by bracketing the Scenic Protection Area with new coal terminals, and Ambre Energy of Australia has already signed contracts with Gunderson Marine in Portland to build the barges that will carry that coal.
So far, there is no countervailing argument in terms of job creation and economic development being put forward as to the long-term, strategic use of the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Protection Area.
The Alliance has posted its list of member organizations:
“Members of the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports include companies, labor, civic and other organizations who understand the importance of exports to our region and want to strengthen our trade economy. “
Members of the Alliance include:
Ambre Energy North America, Inc.
American Council of Engineering Companies of Washington
Association of Washington Business
Billings Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Washington State Legislative Board
Cloud Peak Energy
Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry
Idaho Chamber Alliance
International Trade Alliance
Montana Chamber of Commerce
Montana Coal Council
Montana Contractors’ Association
Montana Rail Link, Inc.
National Association of Manufacturers
National Mining Association
OregonBuilding Trades Council
Pacific Merchant Shipping Association
Portland & Western Railroad, Inc.
United Transportation Union – MontanaState Legislative Board
United Transportation Union – OregonState Legislative Board
United Transportation Union – WashingtonState Legislative Board
Washington Farm Bureau
Washington Farm Labor Association
Western Environmental Trade Association
Want to add your name to the list? Join us today!
All of these parties see the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Protection Area as a route, as a line on a map, as a mark in the corporate profit and loss statement.
What is missing from this public policy discussion is a view of the Scenic Protection Area as a place, unique to itself, and an evaluation of the economic development and job creation that would result if the Columbia River Gorge were so prioritized.
The American public might be in a mood to take a good hard look at the subsidies it dedicates to barging on the mid-Columbia, and the mission of the US Army Corps of Engineers related to navigation could be subject to review and change.
What would be possible in the Columbia Gorge were the barge subsidies to end?
What could we create there with this new prioritization?
These are good questions, well worthy of the broadest public discussion, and at the highest levels of governance.
There is a time to wait and a time to act, and the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports is acting right now.
Will the Columbia Gorge Scenic Protection Area be a place or a route?
Organize! Act! Believe in the beauty of your dreams!