Port of Lewiston budgets for cruise boat dock plan

Money to begin designing a new cruise boat dock is part of the Port of Lewiston’s budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Port commissioners approved the $1.98 million budget for the 2021 fiscal year at their meeting Wednesday, the first one citizens were allowed to attend in person since coronavirus social distancing started in March.

A total of $100,000 is set aside for the dock project, and more is anticipated to be needed, just for the design phase, Port Manager David Doeringsfeld said.

Estimates for the dock in a master plan are $5.06 million for one that would be 700 feet long; and $3.5 million for one that would be 375 feet long.

Port officials hope engineers can find ways to reduce the price tag for the upgrade that would be constructed in three years at the earliest, Doeringsfeld said.

If the Port of Lewiston moves forward with the dock, it will mark a departure from the role it has served in the community for decades.

The Port of Clarkston has cultivated the overnight cruise boat industry, while the Lewiston port has been a cargo hub.

Clearwater Paper unloads sawdust at the Port of Lewiston that’s used as a raw material at its Lewiston pulp and tissue mill. Another company, Alta Forest Products, a maker of wood board fences in Chehalis, Wash., loads cedar logs onto vessels there.

Diversifying will allow the Port of Lewiston to provide room for boats that the Port of Clarkston doesn’t have space for, Doeringsfeld said.

“The pie is getting bigger,” he said. “They need additional (berths).”

The dock would be on 13 acres immediately west of the railroad bridge on the north side of the Clearwater River. It would be part of a development that eventually will include amenities such as a recreational vehicle park.

In addition to investing in the dock, the Port of Lewiston plans to add to its 35-mile fiber optic network in the coming fiscal year. The port will spend $400,000 on that upgrade, making it the largest expense in the 2021 fiscal year budget behind $468,428 for salaries and benefits of the port’s five employees.

The network may be expanded to Clearwater Paper this year. It already reaches downtown Lewiston, Normal Hill, Lewiston’s new high school, the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport and nearby industrial districts, and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories in Lewiston and surrounding areas.

With the expansion, the port anticipates its revenue will grow significantly, rising from $150,000 this fiscal year to $230,000 in fiscal year 2021.

“It’s very important that our region has reliable and redundant internet service,” Commissioner Mary Hasenoehrl said.

“We’re going to see a lot of people that don’t have an office building,” Hasenoehrl said. “They’re working from their home. If we want those people to move to Nez Perce County and buy services in our community, we’re going to have to continue to invest.”

One of the biggest sources of funds for the infrastructure such as the dock and the fiber optic network is the port’s annual tax levy, which will be $405,000 in fiscal year 2021.

That’s the same amount the Port of Lewiston has received from property taxes since fiscal year 2017.

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