- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - Container traffic at the Port of Lewiston in northern Idaho is on hold indefinitely, officials say.

“At this point in time, the Port of Lewiston is not shipping any containers on water,” Port Manager David Doeringsfeld told the Lewiston Tribune (https://bit.ly/1JoLiYL).

Shipper Hapag-Lloyd confirmed Tuesday that the company is no longer calling on the Port of Portland and will use other locations. Hapag-Lloyd represented about 20 percent of Portland’s container business but more than 90 percent of the Port of Lewiston’s, upriver in Idaho.

Doeringsfeld said container business represented about 15 percent of the tonnage shipped from the port, and that port commissioners are trying to come up with a new strategy.

He said it hasn’t been determined what the port can do for customers who mostly ship dried peas and lentils.

A possibility is shifting that business to a railroad. But there’s only one line into the valley and it would have to negotiate agreements with other carriers.

“That’s something that takes months, not weeks,” Doeringsfeld said.

Despite the loss of container shipping, he said, the port still has an important role in the economy of the area. As an example, he said, Clearwater Paper barges chips and sawdust for its Lewiston mill.

But Idaho Rivers United, a group that supports removing the four lower Snake River dams downstream of the port, said taxpayer subsidies play a bigger part in keeping the port operating.

“How much economic benefit is this really generating for the amount of outlay?” said spokesman Greg Stahl. “In any free-market scenario, it appears the port wouldn’t even exist, at least at this point.”

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Information from: Lewiston Tribune, https://www.lmtribune.com

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