Port of Grays Harbor Commissioner Jack Thompson was in a reflective mood when he took the podium at the Port’s Deeper Draft Phase II celebration Wednesday evening.
“This whole thing started in 1976,” he said. “The commissioners at that time – Hans Bielski, Neil Logue and John Stevens – had the vision and had the wisdom to start the Deeper Draft process.” Thompson said “It is the result of their vision” that the Port was able to survive the decline in the logging industry that drove it for decades and diversify to handle car imports and exports and house “a dry bulk products facility that feeds the world. I know if they were here they would be proud of the direction the Port has taken.”
The Deeper Draft project, adding another critical two feet to the depth of the Grays Harbor navigation channel, finally got the necessary approval to proceed in 2015 and commenced thanks to $15 million in federal funds and the support of the state’s national representatives in Washington, D.C. Phase II of the three phase project began in October; completion is expected in September of 2018.
Thompson introduced Colonel John Buck with the Army Corps of Engineers, who said the Corps was “excited to be part of a project to help with the efficiency and productivity of the Port.” He added a little historical perspective by reminding everyone the Corps first undertook a Grays Harbor project in 1893, a $50,000 Congressional project to build dikes – piles providing the foundation for layers of brush, then rocks, the whole thing secured with timbers – to increase the navigation depth to accommodate vessels with a 16-foot draft, the standard for loaded lumber vessels at the time.
Thompson pointed out Kevin Campbell from Brusco Tug and Barge, “the gentleman responsible for getting all those vessels in here.” He also singled out International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 24 President Mike Brown as “the gentleman responsible for the labor to load and unload all these ships, trucks and rail cars.”
Port Executive Director Gary Nelson called the Deeper Draft project “a real prudent and proficient use of public funds.” He thanked U.S. senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Congressman Derek Kilmer and “going way back, Norm Dicks,” for their contributions in securing the funding and permission to make the project a reality. He further thanked the commission for their ongoing efforts to pinpoint the areas that would most benefit from dredging, saving on cost while still getting the maximum benefit for shipping traffic.