Tri-Cities officials seek federal help to gain control of Columbia River shorelines

The shoreline is currently controlled by the U.S. Corps of Engineers

Tri-Cities officials are trying to regain local authority over Columbia River shorelines and they need Congress to help.

On Monday, U.S. Representative Dan Newhouse of the 4th Legislative District met with city officials from Kennewick, Richland and Pasco. They surveyed several areas around the Tri-Cities where improvements could be made. Local officials need help from federal officials to make the changes they envision for the area due to a 50 year lease with the US Corps of Engineers stating the shorelines are owned by the federal government and local governments maintain the areas. Local officials have to receive approval from the U.S. Corps of Engineers to do any improvements or changes to the shoreline, limiting the area’s commercial and recreational growth.

The City Manager of Kennewick, Marie Mosley, says they don’t intend to make reconveyance of the shorelines a commercial venture, but there could be supplemental and complimentary commercial activity along the river.

“We’ve got over 300 acres in Columbia park, and most of it will remain recreation,” Mosley said, “72 acres would be for recreational purposes only. [Commercial activity] would go along with the recreation that Columbia Park currently has. That’s been an effort for several years now that we’ve been undergoing.”

Mosley and several other local leaders expressed issues with Rep. Newhouse about accessibility to the shoreline, overgrown trees blocking views and the process they have to undergo just to put a flag along the river.

“There’s so many restrictions,” Newhouse said, “They have to get permission and that takes months and months to get. I think the community would see a lot of positive things happen in a very short amount of time if the local governments had more ability to make decisions without having to deal with bureaucracy and the federal government.”

Mosley is hopeful Congress will help the local governments gain control of the shoreline.

“The Corps of engineers has been very upfront with us that they’ll do whatever Congress tells them to do,” she said, “Obviously work for the federal government and whatever the federal government tells them to do, they’ll do and they’ll be a good partner with us and help us to implement something if that were to go through.”

Rep. Newhouse has continued to argue the importance of local input and control. He has voted against bills that take control away from local governments and entities. He said officials in Washington D.C. have perspective and points to consider, but something can be lost by taking away local perspectives.

“People that live right here, that this is their community have, are probably better suited and better able to make decisions regarding the river shores versus the Army Corps,” he said.