A new University of Idaho study found that 4,830 jobs are directly or indirectly connected to the three Snake River seaports.
The ports of Lewiston, Clarkston and Whitman County - which financed the study along with the Northwest Power Planning Council - intend to use it to show the potential economic impact of proposals for breaching the four lower Snake River dams to help endangered salmon runs recover.
The $24,000, 100-page study conducted by University of Idaho researchers concluded that the system of dams and locks on the lower Snake, which allows barging between the inland ports and the Pacific Ocean, saves $24 million a year in transportation costs compared with use of railroads and trucks.
The ports, the study found, would be “struggling to survive if water transportation were ended.”
“The economic impacts to the tri-port region from the loss of the dams include $35.6 million in income from water transportation and a portion of the $81.3 million in port industrial parks and economic development,” according to the study.
“The jobs impacts include 1,580 jobs from water transportation (and related activity), and a portion of the 3,249 jobs in industrial parks and economic development.”
Businesses such as Potlatch Corp. that use water transportation may lose some of their competitiveness if that option is removed, the study said, and the region itself may be less able to attract new industry.
The ports are satisfied with the study, said David Doeringsfeld, manager at the Port of Lewiston. The researchers were conservative with their figures and the study is “easily defensible,” he said.