I’m not sure what they’re thinking. While the Heavy Haul corridor has been a boon to Oroville, our county commissioners, including the representative from north county, Jim Detro, seem to be trying to unravel all the good that has come of it.
There has been a push of late to extend the corridor to Pateros, even though the benefits, seem spectral at best – increased fruit going south for packing, raw logs and hog fuel for the Omak mill. Let’s examine the situation more closely: according to our Canadian neighbors production of fruit, other than wine grapes, has dropped dramatically. The apples and cherries that are still grown can be handled by the current warehouses, so it is unlikely that much of it will be heading our way for packing. Raw logs are hard to export into the U.S. because of trade agreements, and again, the South Okanagan Region of B.C. still has plenty of its own sawmills to turn them into lumber. What we do get is lumber out of the Gorman Brothers mills in BC that is trucked to Oroville and then re-cut, remanufactured, to specific specifications by Gorman’s Oroville Reman and Reload. Hog fuel for the Omak mill can still be shipped by standard trucks, but Reman and Reload would probably be happy to load it at the Oroville Railhead and send it by rail to the Omak Mill if it was available and that needed.
In fact, that’s where the second half of the Reman and Reload name comes in. The company has reloaded a variety of Canadian products on to railcars over the past several decades – everything from value-added-in-Oroville wood products to bottled water. It and other Oroville businesses are what have helped to keep the Cascade and Columbia River Railroad short line in business.
So why would we want the negatives that come with extending the corridor south? Tonasket doesn’t want increased traffic through town. The argument that trucks that can haul more will cut down on truck traffic doesn’t fly if you are trying to attract more business south. If you aren’t trying to attract more truck traffic past the railhead in Oroville, than what’s the point?
Next, you haven’t addressed the cost of beefing up the highway to handle heavier trucks. Oroville’s short heavy haul from the border to the railhead was a natural because there was additional funding for highways so close to the border – sure it was for traffic to the Vancouver Olympics that never showed up, but it was paid for. The money that would have to be spent to expand the heavy haul corridor has been estimated by the state Department of Transportation at $55 million. Which one of our fiscally conservative Seventh District legislators is going to take up that cause? Reports are Rep. Joel Kretz already found out there was little backing for the idea – will he continue to spend his political capital for an unneeded expansion?
So where’s the upside, taking business from Oroville? More traffic for Tonasket? There really doesn’t seem to be one. Maybe it’s time to drop the whole idea and start representing the entire county in your thinking.
On a happier side note, I hope everyone has a Happy Easter this Sunday and keeps in mind the reason many of us celebrate.