From the Port of Hood River Winter 2020 Newsletter
The Port of Hood River has 31 full and part-time regular employees. Of these, 10 reside in the State of Washington. The aggregate annual salary and benefits of our Washington employees equals about $850,000. This is a simple reflection of the bi-state nature of the Mid-Columbia Region. Whenever a new job position is open, applications are received from both states. We hire the best candidate, no matter the zip code. As we should.
More generally, the Port’s efforts provide tangible benefits to residents of both states. When the salmon are running or during the summer boating season, you’ll often see Washington license plates in the majority at the Marina parking lot. Parks, trails, and recreation sites on the Hood River Waterfront are used by, and benefit, all. Businesses in Port buildings draw employees from throughout the bi-state area. The Gorge economy is driven primarily by the people and businesses in our small region in Oregon and Washington.
The Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge itself is a tangible example of bi-state connectivity. A critical link in the region’s transportation system, it connects people to services, jobs, schools, health and medical care on both sides of the Columbia River. But as is well known, the bridge is nearly 100 years old. The need to replace it is more important than ever, but the project is very large for our area’s population size. We are a collection of small, rural communities remote from urban areas that more frequently attract attention for sizable federal or state funding commitments needed for such projects. We are making solid strides toward bridge replacement, but expect the journey to be a long one.
Thankfully, that bi-state nature of the Mid-Columbia region is our greatest strength. Because of it, we have access to senior elected officials in both states, two state transportation departments, and twice the brain power, resources, support, and political influence. Because of it, a group of consultants, staff and government representatives from both states have been working together to complete the three-year long federal environmental review process, a critical first step. Now a smaller group of local officials representing the cities of Bingen, White Salmon and Hood River, along with Hood River and Klickitat counties have begun meeting to anticipate the significant permitting, funding, and ownership hurdles ahead. We are grateful for this bi-state cooperation and focused work effort. Without it, successful bridge replacement is unlikely. For its part, the Port of Hood River must also look to a future without a bridge. We are currently working to update our Strategic Business Plan that guides priorities, policies, and projects over the next six years. Within this timeframe, I believe it will become clear whether the bridge can be replaced, or whether a large capital investment will need to be made to the existing bridge to keep it functioning safely. At that time, either way, the Port’s operations will need to undergo significant changes.
Michael McElwee, Port Executive Director