The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Michele Smith
The Times 

Port Moves Forward on Dayton-Waitsburg Trail Grant

Commissioners also hear reports on Lyons Ferry repairs, railroad business, marketing


DAYTON – During their regular meeting last week, the Port of Columbia commissioners adopted a greenhouse emissions policy, as requested by the Washington State Department of Transportation. DOT has requested the policy as part of the grant application process to obtain $330,000 for the design of the $3.5 million Dayton to Waitsburg non-motorized trail.

According to Port Manager Jennie Dickinson, The policy takes into account improved energy efficiency through the Port’s support of wind energy and installation of three electric car charging station at the Blue Mountain Station. Two Tesla and one universal electric car charging station will be installed beginning on May 21.

Dickinson also said the grant requires a 20% match, and the Port will need to budget for it in 2019. The grant process includes review and recommendation for placement on a list of priorities. Decisions about disbursements will be made during the 2020 legislative session, she said.

“The higher we end up on the list, the better off we will be,” she said.

Dickinson said she received many important letters of concurrence for support of the trail. “It was pretty easy to get. This is a very popular project,” she said.

Dickinson said a National Park Service grant application for technological help with the trail project is due at the end of the month.

The Port commissioners also placed their stamp of approval on the new Lyons Ferry Marina Facilities Plan. Dickinson said the next step is to submit the plan to the US Army Corps of Engineers for approval. Port Chairman Earle Marvin said, “This will give the Corps the idea of what can be done, provided the funding is there.”

Dickinson said the insurance company will cover the cost to repair the breakwater at the Lyons Ferry Marina, which was damaged by winter weather, in 2016-17. She said local machinist Bob Gemmells has been working with the marina concessionaire on making repairs.

Dickinson told the commissioners that Seneca Foods, Inc. will be shipping 50 more cars by rail. And Paul Didelius, the CWW Rail Commercial Director, is currently working with another company for potential rail business.

Didelius has also asked for the Port’s help with a rail funding strategy and getting a consultant on board, but there is no money in the 2018 budget. However, Dickinson recently attended a Washington Public Port Association conference in Vancouver, Wash., where she heard about new federal funding that has opened up for rail infrastructure, and she said it looks promising.

Another consultant at the WPPA conference talked about the expectations and realities that rural areas have for broadband capability in their communities. According to that consultant, 5G broadband will not be coming to rural areas any time soon, said Dickinson.

“It is capital intensive, and has to be placed close to a fiber optic line,” she said.

Columbia County and the city of Dayton have a mix of different kinds of broadband, including fiber optic and some wireless. Dickinson said mini cell technology exits to boost mobile speeds in rural areas, but the rolling hills in Columbia County will make that difficult.

In her report, Economic Development Coordinator Kathryn Witherington said Columbia County has been approved to be an opportunity zone, which is a funding mechanism under the new federal tax plan.

“People have the opportunity to take their capital gains taxes and place them in opportunity funds, which can be dispersed out to rural projects,” she said. “It is something that can be used to bring business here in the future.”

Witherington said she also attended the WPPA conference and she came away with many good ideas for marketing in Columbia County.

She also noted that there has been a large uptick in use of the commercial kitchen at the Blue Mountain Station Co-op.

“This is really exciting because it is a lot of businesses and might grow into something more,” she said. “It’s the good incubator space we wanted it to be.”

The Market Co-op Board has developed a marketing committee, and Witherington said she is looking into making some physical design changes at the Market.

In June, Witherington will attend a food and trade show in the Tri-Cities, along with other tenants at the Blue Mountain Station Market.

The Blue Mountain Station Summer Market Kick-off will take place on May 26, with a bounce house, face painting, and a petting zoo for the kids, said Witherington.

XO Alambic is planning a whiskey tasting, and they have 160 bottles of their new release available for purchase, she said.

Special Guest Dan Butler spoke to Port officials about the importance of the Dayton Boys and Girls Club. The commissioners approved a one-time donation in the amount of $2,500 to the Dayton Boys & Girls Club, and $5,000 annually beginning in 2019.


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