U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R.-Wash.) is continuing to seek information about whether proponents of the Columbia River Crossing project leaned on the U.S. Coast Guard to issue permits for the project.
The Coast Guard has jurisdiction over the height of the proposed new bridge, which at least for now, appears to be dead. The bridge design was too low to allow the passage of shipping from industrial facilities just upriver from where I-5 crosses the Columbia River.
That oversight was not made public until very late in the process and well after the December 2011 federal Record of Decision that authorized the CRC.
Herrera Buetler, who like many of her Clark County constituents has been critical of the project, still wants to know why the Coast Guard, which initially expressed grave doubts about the bridge's design height, subsequently approved it.
Here's the letter she sent Coast Guard Commander Robert Papp on April 10:
As you may know, on March 7th the Oregon Department of Transportation announced it had begun shutting down all activities related to the proposed Columbia River Crossing (CRC) bridge project. The shutdown is scheduled to be completed by May 31. With Washington State rejecting the proposal in 2013, Oregon’s actions will mark the end of the highly flawed and highly controversial project.
While the CRC is now dead, many unanswered questions remain; particularly surrounding the Coast Guard’s permitting process. As I said in my letter dated October 24, 2013, there are serious concerns in Southwest Washington and in Congress that the Coast Guard was improperly influenced to deviate from standard procedures to issue the permit. There were a number of unprecedented steps taken throughout this process, including the removal of permitting jurisdiction from the regional office in Seattle. In both the aforementioned letter and a letter dated September 13, 2013 I requested internal and external communications regarding the CRC. I appreciate the delivery of external documents and internal administrative records. However, six months after the initial request I have still not received any internal communications. I do not believe that throughout the entire permitting process there were no emails sent between Coast Guard employees regarding the Columbia River Crossing. It has also been brought to my attention that the Coast Guard has not complied with private citizen requests for communications under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The Coast Guard’s disregard for my constituents’ concerns and private citizens’ requests is both upsetting and inappropriate. I implore you to provide the public with the information that was requested, as a failure to do so would also be a failure to comply with United States law. I would appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.