The Port of Grays Harbor’s preliminary 2017 budget was unveiled at the Port commissioners’ meeting Tuesday, predicting a slight decline in revenue and import/export activity for 2017 but with levels still well above those earlier in the decade.
Port Director of Finance and Administration Mary Nelson presented a summary of the report before commissioners voted to approve the preliminary budget.
With international trade activity representing nearly 80 percent of the Port’s operations, the recent strengthening of the dollar is partially responsible for the decline. That affected U.S. exports for a short time, but the outlook for the rest of this year and into next is for more stability in trade conditions. Forecasts have 87 vessels and 2 million metric tons of cargo coming through the Port in 2017, leading to expected operating revenues of $25 million. While below the record years of 2013-14, revenues are well above those prior to 2012.
The 2017 preliminary budget includes total revenues of $30 million, including operating revenues and $1.8 million in grants for financing capital improvement projects. Budgeted expenses total $32.3 million, including $5 million in capital projects and $2.4 million in debt service payments.
The budget covers a number of improvement projects on Port controlled property, including Bowerman Airport. Port Director of Environmental and Engineering Services Randy Lewis briefed the commissioners and about 30 members of the public who were on hand on the recent environmental assessment for the facility.
Bowerman has several issues that need addressing, such as lack of drainage and the need to expand taxi lanes and runway aprons. An environmental assessment is under way, which can take up to 18 months to complete. An updated project design will then be crafted, and construction is expected in 2018-19. Funding for the environmental assessment is split, 90 percent from the FAA, 10 percent from the Port, which is competing for a discretionary grant to fund actual construction.
Several Corps of Engineers projects were discussed, among them the dredging of navigation channels and the repair of the marine breakw ater at Pt. Chehalis. Emergency repairs were done in December and January, “now we have the money for permanent repairs,” the Corps’ Elizabeth Chien told commissioners. The same goes for the Westhaven Marina breakwater. Both are scheduled for repairs in December.
Port Public Affairs Manager Kayla Dunlap gave a short presentation on the recently-released final environmental impact statement for the proposed Westway oil storage and transportation facility. She pointed to a few specific areas of the assessment that directly applied to the Port, including funding for a formal vessel management system, which would ensure vessel traffic is limited during transfers, and finding solutions to potential issues caused by increased rail traffic.
The commission approved authorization to apply for a grant to improve the Westport Marina boat launch. Lewis detailed some of the proposed upgrades, including a new parking surface, restrooms and fish cleaning stations, an information kiosk and new entry and exit points to improve the flow of traffic on adjacent streets.
Commissioners attending the American Association of Port Authorities annual convention Oct. 26, will accept the association’s Overall Award for Excellence for the Port’s popular 4th Grade Tour Program. The program gives students a firsthand look at a working waterfront with a tour of the marine terminals and industrial properties.