The Port of Walla Walla may spend about $522,000 next year to bring a barge slip in its Burbank Industrial Park to a useable condition.
The project is intended to help the park become a major wheat storage and shipping hub for southeastern Washington.
The slip is leased by Scoular Co., a company based in the Midwest. It signed a 25-year lease with the port earlier this year for the former Cograin facility, including a 400,000-bushel metal grain tank, three concrete grain silos and the barge slip.
Scoular will truck in wheat grown in Southern Idaho, which will then be shipped on barges on the Snake and Columbia rivers to Portland for export.
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During lease negotiations, the port and the Scoular weren’t sure of the condition of the barge slip, said Jim Kuntz, the port’s executive director. The slip hadn’t been used for grain shipments in about a decade.
The terms of the lease dictate that if the slip needs to be dredged, the port will pay for the cost of that, Kuntz said. Silt accumulates around the barge slip as part of the natural movement of the Snake River.
After the initial dredging, Scoular will take over the responsibility of any future dredging, he said.
Port officials hope to finish dredging the slip in early 2015. It’s a complicated process, as they have to test the soil that is being removed and set up silt fencing in the river.
The port must receive approval from Walla Walla County and the state Department of Ecology for the project.
The company also committed to more than $1 million to improve and upgrade grain storage, officials said earlier this year.