Friday, October 22, 2010


For the past thirteen years, my wife has worked for the Lower Columbia River Ports, as the project manager for the Columbia River Channel Deepening. The river, long-dredged to forty feet for ship traffic, needed to be three feet deeper for the increasingly-bigger vessels coming to call, to stay competitive.

Dianne took over, based at the Port of Portland.

Not really much of a change, to dig the channel a yardstick deeper, but, oh, what a can of logistical and environmental worms! Every i had to be dotted, every t crossed, and about the time they though they had all the proper permits in place, something would pop up and they'd have to start over. 

By the time they managed to meet all the requirements to crank the dredges, the paperwork was, if you stacked it, thirty feet tall. Literally. And it had to be paid for, so federal funding had to be secured. 

These days, if you want to mow your lawn, you have to file an environmental impact statement, and Oregon and Washington are the greenest places in the country, so the obstacles were legion. Salmon, nuclear waste, disposal sites, crab fishermen, all kinds of stuff. 

It's a big deal in the Pacific Northwest, worth thousands of jobs and billions of dollars, and it took everything our elected officials could do, plus uncounted man and woman-hours to get it accomplished.

Dianne and her counterpart at the Army Corps of Engineers, Laura Hicks, worked like sled dogs on this for more than a decade, and without them, it simply would not have gotten done. (The joke at the Corps in Portland is, All our best men are women ...) They did studies, attended public meetings that ran until midnight, wrangled with property owners, got into the depths of mitigation and wetland restoration, very technical material and way beyond my ability to lay it out. Lot of folks helped; a lot of folks got in the way. 

Um. Anyway, Dianne wanted to stay the course and get this finished before she retired, and the last bit of digging isn't far off. It'll be finished when she goes, and she gets to walk away a winner.

Yesterday, there was a big to-do for the folks involved in this monster, awards and recognition, first for the people who worked the project, then in a more public venue, with Governors, Senators, Congressmen and -women and assorted bigwigs. A victory lap, as it were, and I was both pleased and proud to see Dianne and Laura get a bit of the credit they so deserve.


J.D. Ray said...

Give Dianne my congratulations and condolences. As a long time resident of Portland, I would like to see more traffic, and the revenue it brings the city, in and out of our port. Alas, as a long time resident of the Socialist State of Portland, I'm quite familiar with all the political shenanigans that go on in these parts. Hooray to her for sticking it out.

Mike Byers said...

What J.D. Ray said. That's really hanging in there, and Dianne surely deserves congratulations for getting the job done. Pam just retired a couple of months ago, and really doesn't miss running our solid waste district (sort of like directing a soap opera in which all the actors are ADD sixth-graders), and I'm betting Dianne will feel much the same.