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City considers ship docking fee

The City of The Dalles will decide in September whether to charge ships for use of the commercial dock at the foot of Union Street.

During the June 30 discussion, council members favored the fee of $150 per docking that has been implemented by the Port of Skamania.

City staff had recommended a flat rate per ship instead of following the example of the Port of Cascade Locks, which charges $1 per foot length, per day.

“It seems to me that if we use the same fee, the ships wouldn’t consider it unreasonable,” said Councilor Carolyn Wood.

“I don’t think the ships will think it’s too much,” said Councilor Tim McGlothlin. “We have to redeem our costs.”

A report compiled by staff showed the dock fee in Astoria as based on the length of the vessel and within a range. For example, a ship the size of the American Express, the largest to dock in The Dalles, would be charged $1,463.70.

Julie Krueger, general services director for the city, schedules ships for docking. She told the council last week that the estimated cost of maintenance for about 83 ships this year would be $4,500, which did not include labor costs.

She said there had been no charge for water usage since the dock opened in 2012 but the cost was estimated at about $15 per ship. Because the city has no tracking system to determine how many vessels take on water, it is unknown how many fill their storage tanks each visit.

Krueger and Nolan Young, city manager, calculated the city would generate about $12,450 per year with a $150 charge for each of the ships currently using the dock.

Once the water department was reimbursed $1,256 to cover usage, the remainder of the money, or $11,205, would go into the general fund. Net annual revenue minus the deduction of maintenance costs would be $6,705.

Young, Krueger and Gene Parker, city attorney, are preparing a draft resolution that authorizes the fee. Young wants the city able to notify ship companies about the new charge prior to the end of the current tourist season so that they can prepare financially for next year.

In a follow-up interview, Krueger said there are already 79 ship bookings for 2015 and that does not include reservations for the Empress, which have not yet been finalized.

Alex Hattenhauer, representing a fuel distributing company in The Dalles, asked city officials July 14 why ships that refueled in The Dalles were not asked to pay the 3 cent per gallon local gas tax. He was at the meeting to protest the proposal to add another 3 cents per gallon to the tax.

He said the yacht club and people using the marina had to pay the fuel fee so ships should also be required to do so.

Mayor Steve Lawrence said he didn’t believe cruise ships bought fuel within the city. He thought these companies made arrangements to have re-fueling done by a vessel that arrived from another location.

Young and Gene Parker, city attorney, said it was their understanding of the law that river-going vessels were exempt from gas taxes that paid for road improvements. They said more investigation would be done on the matter.

The city is currently working with four companies, one that has two ships using the dock. The Empress holds 223 passengers and is 360-feet long and stops in The Dalles once a week.

Passengers are provided with morning Hop-On Hop-Off shuttles through town. Scheduled stops include the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, Fort Dalles Museum, Sunshine Mill and the historic downtown commercial districts.

Buses are also provided during the afternoons to take visitors to the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum in Hood River and Maryhill Museum and Stonehenge on the Washington side of the Columbia, among other locations.

The dedication of the commercial and recreational docks almost two years ago drew a crowd of local, state and federal officials. Also celebrated was completion of the nearby Lewis and Clark festival area that provides public restrooms and places for visitors and community members to picnic.

Wasco County deeded land to the city to make the docks and park a reality. The Port of The Dalles was a co-applicant on the $2 million grant that was obtained from the U.S. Economic Development Administration for the project. Another $2 million grant was received from the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency contributed $2.7 million for design work and construction.

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation gave up fishing rights to accommodate the docks. The state Department of Environmental Quality, Division of State lands, National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers helped the city navigate the regulatory processes to accomplish the work without harming endangered fish runs.

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