Economic issues focus of capitol trip

Bob McFadden, a long-time Realtor at Copper West and president of the Port of The Dalles board, represented the community during a recent trip to Washington DC, where he met with members of the legislature and federal agency staff. Mark B. Gibson photo

Bob McFadden, President of Port of The Dalles Commission, was recently in Washington, D.C., as a representative of The Dalles Community Outreach Team.

It was the first time the annual trip to D.C. was a one-man-show.

“It was difficult,” said McFadden. “We had always gone as a group, and we could divide the presentations up. This year, it was ‘Bob talking about this... and then here is Bob again, talking about that,’” he explained with a laugh. “I think I kept it all rolling. I don’t think I dropped the ball on anything,” he said.

The outreach team meets monthly and was formed in the late 1990s. At that time, unemployment was high nationwide, Oregon had the highest unemployment rate of any state and Wasco County had the highest rate of any county. “We decided as a group that we needed to do something about it.”

For many years, the annual trip resulted in federal dollars being appropriated for local projects by the legislature. “That has all changed,” McFadden said.

Such appropriations are now rare, and local budgets don’t see a direct budgetary impact from the visit, he explained.

“Today, the dollars are not there, with the legislature, they are with the federal agencies,” he explained.

The outreach team continues to meet monthly, and McFadden arrived at the capitol with “The Book,” a printed guide detailing community projects supported by the committee.

While in DC, McFadden was able to meet with four senators, two from Oregon and two from Washington, as well as two representatives and agency staff from the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Labor.

"The two agency appointments were very productive and there is a lot of follow-up happening, both from the City of The Dalles and work force development," said McFadden.

The Port and legislative staffers also met with the U.S. Forest Service to identify a potential resource for added funding to the Oregon and Washington Investment Boards, one of the economic development avenues provided in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act.

A Forest Service representative was also contacted to discuss the Dog River Pipeline feeding The Dalles Watershed reservoir and forest fuels reduction needed to keep the watershed safe.

Although the committee is focused on The Dalles, regional issues are also represented. McFadden said the Department of Labor was very supportive of the committee proposal, and spoke of grant possibilities in the spring.

One of those financial assistance request proposals involved economic development funds promised in conjunction with the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area and never received.

The proposal document states, “A new infusion of funds is urgently needed to support our economic development loans and grants program.

The funds from this request will both increase the Investment Boards’ local financing capacity to support the economy of the Columbia River Gorge and support vital initiatives to address lost economic opportunities resulting from the nearly 30-year gap between congressional fund authorizati8on and appropriation.”

Funds were also being sought for restoration of The Dalles Civic Auditorium Theatre and for the Historic Columbia River Highway and State Trail restoration.

Policy issues addressed by the committee, to be presented by McFadden, included fuels reduction and Dog River Pipeline in the City of The Dalles watershed, which involved a meeting with the Forest Service; urban growth boundary expansion in The Dalles; continued payments in lieu of taxes; an administrative change with the U.S. Economic Development Administration that would save fees; changes in the Columbia River Treaty with Canada and federal highway designation for the Hood River Bridge.

McFadden was is a representative of the port as well as the committee, and was also able to get together with representatives of the port districts of Cascade Locks, Hood River, Morrow and Umatilla.

"It was good to be interacting with them, and to find out that we are saying the same thing on issues that affect our ability to be the economic drivers up and downstream from The Dalles," said McFadden.

The Dalles Community Outreach Team includes: Mayor Steve Lawrence of the City of The Dalles; Columbia Gorge Community College President Dr. Frank Toda; North Wasco County School District 21 Superintendent Candy Armstrong; Mid-Columbia Economic Development District Executive Director Amanda Hoey; Northern Wasco County People’s Utility District General Manager Roger Kline; Port of The Dalles Executive Director Andrea Klaas; Port of The Dalles Commissioner Greg Weast; The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Lisa Farquharson; Wasco County Commissioner Scott Hege.

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