By Barbara LeBoe, June 21, 2013, Longview Daily News
Recreation in national forests is important, but so are the jobs and economic development that come from working forests, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler told Port of Longview officials Friday.
The Republican representing Washington’s 3rd Congressional District took her first tour of the port, saying she wants to familiarize herself with all 15 ports in her district. She said she wants to find more ways to make it easier to deal with federal regulations and employees.
“Yes, there is an important regulatory role, but the idea of having an advocate is really how (federal offices) should be working,” she said. “Making sure we’re not unnecessarily decreasing efficiency or putting burdens in the way.”
Port officials and Pacific Lumber and Shipping President Tom Leeds touted the region’s timber economy, noting that two million tons of timber are exported through the port annually.
They also praised Herrera Beutler’s support of “Section 214,” which allows the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work directly with public ports on permitting projects. Working with one person in the Portland office speeds up many projects and allows for a quicker resolution of permit questions or disputes, officials told Herrera Beutler.
Herrera Beutler said she often hears about recreation access in forests but strives to remind people they’re also a source of income and jobs.
“Recreation is important, but utilizing trees in our working forests helps the economy of our local communities,” she said. “We can utilize forests in a responsible way and get jobs out of them. We can do both.”
The visit was a chance for port officials to toot their own horn, noting that they’ve had five straight record revenue years, including $33.8 million in 2012. The 20 percent increase in 2012 made Longview the third largest port in the state, surpassing the Port of Vancouver.
One out of every 10 jobs in Cowlitz County is related to the Port of Longview, which injects $1.7 billion into the local economy annually, according to a recent port analysis.
The port, which handles grain, logs, wind energy parts, steel and other bulk products, has diversified its cargo to help shelter itself from economic downturns. It is planning to develop its Barlow Point property to attract clients and evaluating the potential of vacant sites on its original property upstream of the Lewis and Clark Bridge.
Following the visit, Herrera Beutler toured the port, including stopping to see a China-bound ship being loaded with 5.8 million board feet of timber.