The Westport Slough channel is authorized to 28 feet deep and 200 feet wide, from deep water in the Columbia River into Westport Slough to the ferry dolphin at Westport, Ore. The project is across from the Wahkiakum Ferry channel in Washington.
Until recently, the navigation channel was maintained to a 9-foot depth, adequate for the Wahkiakum Ferry, a vital interstate transportation link for the entire Lower Columbia region. The ferry runs between Cathlamet in Wahkiakum County, Wash. and Westport in Clatsop County, Ore. The ferry carries more than 50,000 vehicles each year; it's not only the most energy-efficient local travel option, it also provides a critical alternative route for interstate traffic when the nearest bridges (26 miles upstream or 43 miles downstream) or highways are closed by weather, traffic accidents, or other causes.
Wahkiakum County completed a $2.8 million ferry terminal upgrade investment in 2010, and plans to put a new, larger $3.9 million ferry vessel into service in 2014. Clatsop County plans $2.4 million in improvements to the ferry landing at Westport to accommodate the new ferry. Federal and State funds are contributing to these investments. The new ferry will have double the capacity for vehicles, and its larger deck will hold tour buses and trucks.
The return of ocean-going deep draft barge traffic to Westport Slough channel now requires increased dredging to maintain a 20-foot depth.