Port of Morrow approved for Marine Highway Designation

BOARDMAN — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) announced Friday it approved the Port of Morrow for a Marine Highway Designation, which enables the port to expand its barge service and makes it eligible to apply for federal funding.

The approval came after the port’s request that included bipartisan support from the state’s Democratic U.S. senators, Sen. Jeff Merkely and Sen. Ron Wyden, along with Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River. Of the 34 issued around the country, this is just the third such designation awarded to projects on the West Coast.

“We are incredibly thankful for the designation for MARAD and would like to thank Sen. Merkley, Sen. Wyden and Rep. Walden for all their support in helping secure this designation,” said Ryan Neal, Port of Morrow executive director.

The port can now apply for funding from MARAD’s America’s Marine Highway Program (AMHP), which received $7 million from Congress in the last fiscal year. Erica Lasater, Port of Morrow’s communications manager, said the port is looking into applying for a grant to open up terminal 1, which would increase the services taking place at the port.

With more projects that expand the port’s services possible with federal funding now available, the port and those that supported its designation are hoping it will create more jobs in the region.

“Oregon’s coastal and inland ports support local economies across our state by providing the kinds of great jobs that people can raise their families on, and by making it easier to transport goods to and from our communities and across the world,” Merkely said in a press release.

The project is also aimed at reducing transportation costs while simultaneously reducing road and rail traffic thanks to the extended barge service and an increase in freight shipments along the Columbia and Snake rivers on Marine Highway 84.

“The Columbia River system is a valuable asset for transporting wheat and other products from Eastern Oregon to the world. I applaud the Port’s efforts to maximize this resource and I am glad to have worked so closely with them to pursue Marine Highway status,” Walden said via press release.

By limiting the need for shipments to and from the region to travel by road and instead better utilizing more efficient waterways, the port and its supporters hope the designation will ultimately help curb carbon emissions and fuel use as well.

The Port of Morrow’s designation joins eight others by the DOT and MARAD last week that expands the county’s alternative shipping methods.

“The designation of marine highways by Congress will help move cargo and people to help grow the economy and shift freight off of congested highways,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a press release.