After six weeks of negotiation, the Port of Hood River has contracted the engineering firm WSP Global for the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge Replacement Project.
At their July 31 commissioner meeting, the Port of Hood River approved a $3,148,000 contract with WSP to finish the Final Environmental Impact Study (FEIS): A document required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that identifies all agencies involved and how they will coordinate with each other, evaluates the impacts and benefits of the project and explores project alternatives.
“This is a major, major step forward,” said project director Kevin Greenwood. The State of Oregon allocated $5 million to the port in a 2017 transportation bill (ORS 217) for environmental impact studies, and this is the largest contract that money will pay for.
One of the biggest benefits of working with WSP, Greenwood said, is that many of the people and firms now with WSP have been involved in the bridge replacement effort in the past, as well as prior projects with the port.
Angela Findley, project director with WSP, said that she initially started working on this project as part of another firm that has since been purchased by WSP. As a goal-oriented person, she said, “It’s really nice to be able to see this through.”
The contract contains a detailed statement of work, arrangements with third-party agencies and a time-frame for completion of the FEIS.
The initial proposal identified a 36-month contract period to finish the FEIS, but the port pushed to reduce the period to 24-months. Ultimately, they agreed on a compromise: 30 months, Aug. 1, 2018 to Jan. 31, 2021.
“As we kick off this project, we’re going to be looking for schedule compression activities,” Findley said, with the intention of finishing the replacement project as quickly as possible without cutting corners.
Coming up, the consulting team will have their kickoff meeting August 9 to identify early action items.
“It’s obviously going to be a working document and agreement,” said commissioner David Merriweather, “(but) I’m comfortable with this agreement.”
The commission also approved an amendment to the port’s contract with Steven Siegel, a Portland-based environmental attorney, for consulting services related to the bridge replacement that increases his budget by $50,000, bringing his total available funds to $184,000.
Siegel has consulted on the port’s bridge replacement efforts since October 2015.
“This is absolutely the best money the commission has ever spent,” said port director Michael McElwee, citing Siegel’s experience and ability to provide information and help develop the scope of work for upcoming contracts. The amendment gives Siegel the funds to continue serving as a consultant until spring 2019.
McElwee took time in the Port Commission’s July 31 meeting to update the commission on progress with community outreach regarding the bridge replacement project.
On June 22, McElwee attended a Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Committee board meeting in Warm Springs to give an update on the project and to request the tribes’ participation in the Bridge Replacement Advisory Committee (BRAC), which will advise the port and communicate with the public throughout the replacement process.
The conversation “was very enlightening, very sobering,” McElwee said, as representatives from the four commission tribes — Nez Perce Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs reservation, and Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation – reminded him that the current bridge has a direct toll on cross-tribal fishers’ ability to conduct their business. “We have to keep that in mind,” McElwee said.
Ultimately, a decision was made to contact each of the tribes individually to talk about if and how they would like to be represented on the committee.
The port also extended a BRAC invitation to Matt Ransom, executive director of the Southwest Regional Transportation Council (RTC), which has played a major part in studying the bridge replacement over the last few years.
BRAC will hold regular monthly public meetings throughout the replacement process, but the first meeting has not yet been set, McElwee said.
In early July, the port received a signed letter from the Northshore Four – a coalition made of Klickitat County, the Port of Klickitat and the Cities of White Salmon and Bingen — inviting the port to meet to discuss the bi-state framework, key decisions involving the FEIS and the post-FEIS process.
“There’s no harm in meeting with them,” said Greenwood, adding that it would be a good opportunity to understand Northshore’s opinions on the bridge replacement.
“With this invitation, I don’t think we can very well say no,” said commissioner David Merriweather.
The port commission agreed to the meeting and is currently working with Northshore to arrange a date and time, likely sometime in August, McElwee said.
The port will continue posting updates on its website at portofhoodriver.com/bridge/bridge-replacement-project/bridge-replacement-blog.