May 15th, 2013 10:40 am | by ANDREA DAMEWOOD News | Posted In: Activism, Business, Transportation, PDX News

Columbia River Crossing Mitigation Deal Far Away, Two Manufacturers Say

Columbia River Crossing supporters yesterday trumpeted the news that the project was close to striking a  deal with Oregon Iron Works to mitigate the harm 116-foot-tall Interstate 5 bridges will do to its business.

But the other two major manufacturers affected by the project say they're nowhere near a deal and are worried the slow pace CRC negotiators are moving at may prevent them from reaching a compromise by a key Sept. 30 deadline.

All three businesses will need mitigation plans in place before the U.S. Coast Guard can approve a required permit that would allow construction of the $3.4 billion megaproject. The Coast Guard, charged with ensuring new bridges don't block commercial waterways like the Columbia River—has thus far balked at approving a bridge that may limit future use. The current lift spans allow 178 feet of clearance for large vessels.

Oregon legislators required the permit be worked out by Sept. 30 for the state to give over its $450 million share of construction costs.

The Columbian reported yesterday that Oregon Iron Works was close to a mitigation deal. Company representatives refused to say what the terms of the deal are, citing a non-disclosure agreement. But executives at two other companies—Thompson Metal Fab and Greenberry—tell WW that their mitigation talks are far from over.

"If they want to hold these deadlines, they’re going to have to step up the negotiations, no question," Thompson Metal Fab President John Rudi says.

Greenberry CEO Jason Pond tells WW that the CRC hadn't met with his company since March until a meeting last week.

Both men described solutions for their companies as "a long way off."

Pond also says that CRC supporters are saying things that “just aren’t accurate” about the mitigation talks as they try to convince Washington Republicans to chip in $450 million to build it. Pond says any claims made about talks going well are “180 degrees from the truth.”

Rudi says that his company met with the CRC three weeks ago and has another meeting with this week.

"I think they're starting to feel the urgency to try and reach some kind of mitigation agreement," Rudi says. "But we're going to have to have quite a bit more to get some traction."

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