The first of two public U.S. Coast Guard meetings on the Columbia River Crossing is tonight at the Red Lion in Jantzen Beach.

The meetings are set to run from 5 pm to 8 pm (the second is tomorrow in Vancouver) and include public testimony. The Coast Guard is still trying to decide if it will grant a vital permit to the $3.5 billion megaproject, which wants to build new Interstate 5 spans at 116 feet tall, a height that will block river passage for at least three major manufacturers upstream.

 As WW reported in March, the Coast Guard has already sent the CRC back to the drawing board on its permit. Regina Caffrey, a spokeswoman for the District 13 Seattle office, says the CRC has sent in the additional information the Coast Guard requested.

But the Coast Guard's Seattle office, led by Admiral K.A. Taylor, is under intense pressure from federal officials supporting the project to approve the permit. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), says she's been highly involved with the permit, which the CRC needs by Sept. 30 or it loses Oregon's $450 million in promised funding. "I have met personally with Admiral Taylor to discuss the CRC and I have worked closely with the Coast Guard to ensure the permit process moves forward in a timely manner," Murray said in a statement.

And there has been big turnover in the Seattle office: Taylor will retire at the end of this month, and bridge administrator Randall Overton transferred to Miami last month. Caffrey says she doesn't expect much to change with the permit. "The next (District 13) Commander is aware of the CRC project's permit application and the ongoing review," she writes in an email. "Key persons remain on the project including the Chief of Staff and the District Legal staff. Admiral Taylor has all confidence that this will be carried on after his retirement."