WASHINGTON, D.C. - Congress passed an omnibus appropriations bill in late November including $9 million, the largest appropriation to date, for the Columbia River Channel Improvement Project to deepen the Columbia River Navigation Channel from 40 to 43 feet and enhance or create more than 2,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat. The bill must now be signed by President Bush.

When signed by the president, the appropriation, combined with previous federal appropriations and a portion of the $55.4 million in state funding committed by Oregon and Washington, may allow the Corps to issue a dredging contract in the spring or summer of 2005.

"The sponsor ports will meet with the Corps to decide how the appropriation affects our construction schedule," said Columbia River Channel Coalition President, Ken O'Hollaren. "This appropriation builds on other successes we've had this year including finalizing state commitments, the President's visit announcing his administration's support for the project, the signing of the project cooperation agreement and completion of the first environmental project construction."

The $9 million appropriation marks the largest of four congressional appropriations for the Channel Improvement Project: $4.5 million was appropriated in Fiscal Year (FY) 2001, $2 million in FY2003, and $3.5 million in FY2004.

"The omnibus bill only increased overall domestic discretionary spending for the agencies it covers by one percent," O'Hollaren said. "Given the current budget deficit, we're very pleased with such a strong level of funding. We want to express our gratitude to the Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana congressional delegations who have worked so hard to keep this project on track."

Congress pledged to fund the $150 million project in 1999 with Washington and Oregon contributing $27.7 million each. The $9 million federal appropriation was half way between the House and Senate versions ($3 million and $15 million respectively) of the FY2005 Energy and Water Appropriations bill.

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