The construction of the replacement Interstate Bridge requires a general bridge permit be issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, an agency primarily focused on the needs of navigation. We are interested in protecting a clear path for both river navigation and freight movement.
The formal process to apply for many permits begins once a project has completed its environmental planning process. The Columbia River Crossing Project completed the planning process in December 2011 with receipt of its Record of Decision.
We have been working with the U.S. Coast Guard since 2005 to improve the river crossing and river navigation. Current plans call for about 95 feet above the Columbia River datum, which provides between 75 and 95 feet of navigational clearance depending on water level. This proposed navigational clearance was identified in 2006 by CRC based on a previous survey of river users and airport navigation limits. Some river users have stated they require greater clearances.
As part of the general bridge permit process, we are currently performing an updated data-collection effort. CRC has asked Columbia River vessel owners and ports to provide information by mid-March on vessel size, frequency of vessel use and future business plans. This data will be considered as project officials continue to analyze existing and future river navigation clearance needs. The data and additional analysis also will be considered by the U.S. Coast Guard when reviewing a permit application from the Columbia River Crossing project.
CRC is working to ensure that interests of river users are met while also giving consideration to flight paths over the bridge, the nearby communities and the overall cost and schedule of the project.
We have worked with the Coast Guard to identify the necessary next steps related to the bridge permit process. They include:
Collect and review updated river use data from vessel owners, ports and businesses
Analyze vessel impacts and investigate minimization opportunities for unavoidable impacts
Submit draft bridge permit application for review
Hold public comment period
Submit final permit application for review
We expect the bridge permitting process to be complete early next year.