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Proposed Rule

Drawbridge Operation Regulations; Columbia River, OR

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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Coast Guard, DHS.


Notice of proposed rulemaking.


The Coast Guard proposes to temporarily change the operating regulations of the dual vertical lift bridges on Interstate Highway 5 across the Columbia River, mile 106.5, between Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA to accommodate a major rehabilitation of the mechanical and electrical systems of the bridges. From July 15, 2004, to August 6, 2004, the lift spans would be closed and from August 6, 2004, to October 15, 2004, the draws would open for the passage of vessels once every two weeks according to an established schedule. The affected period approximates the annual season of low water on the Columbia when the maximum vertical clearance will be available.


Comments and related material must reach the Coast Guard on or before October 20, 2003.


You may mail comments and related material to Commander (oan), 13th Coast Guard District, 915 Second Avenue, Seattle, WA 98174-1067 where the public docket for this rulemaking is maintained. Comments and material received from the public, as well as documents indicated in this preamble as being available in the docket, will become part of this docket and will be available for inspection or copying at the Aids to Navigation and Waterways Management Branch between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

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Austin Pratt, Chief Bridge Section, (206) 220-7282.

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Request for Comments

We encourage you to participate in this rulemaking by submitting comments and related material. If you do so, please include your name and address, identify the docket number for this rulemaking [CGD13-03-027], indicate the specific section of this document to which each comment applies, and give the reason for each comment. Please submit all comments and related material in an unbound format, no larger than 81/2 by 11 inches, suitable for copying. If you would like to know they reached us, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed postcard or envelope. We will consider all comments and material received during the comment period. We may change this proposed rule in view of them.

An abbreviated comment period is in effect for this proposal in order to expedite processing. This will allow the bridge owner to advertise the project for bidding with adequate lead-time and as described by the limits to the project set by the temporary rule promulgated in the light of comments received.

Public Meeting

We do not now plan to hold a public meeting. But you may submit a request for a meeting by writing to the Aids to Navigation and Waterways Management Branch at the address under ADDRESSES explaining why one would be beneficial. If we determine that one would aid this rulemaking, we will hold one at a time and place announced by a later notice in the Federal Register.

Background and Purpose

The proposed temporary rule would enable the bridge owners to conduct a major rehabilitation project during the part of the year when water levels are typically low enough that most vessels do not need the drawspans to open for their passage. The seven million dollar project would completely replace the existing 1959 electrical system in both bridges and the 1916 gears in the northbound drawbridge. In addition, the operating control center would be rebuilt with improved visibility and new television cameras. During the first three weeks of the period, the dual lifts would remain in the down position to facilitate gear replacement. Thereafter, openings would be provided once every two weeks, if needed, until the end of the temporary period. Historically, water levels on the Columbia River fluctuate significantly over the course of an annual cycle. Essentially, water levels are dependent on the accumulation of snow in the winter and its melting in the spring and early summer. The annual dry season in the Pacific Northwest is typically from approximately July 15 to October 15. Usually rainfall begins to raise water levels again after October 15.

A river elevation of 6.0 feet Columbia River Datum (CRD) is the critical point for towboats on the Columbia River at and upstream of the bridges. Cargo towing is the main commercial use of the Columbia above the bridges. Large oceangoing vessels do not generally pass above these bridges. The towboats that ply that portion of the Columbia require 52 feet of vertical clearance. Most towing vessels and passenger tour vessels are able to pass through the highest fixed spans near midstream without requiring the vertical lift spans near the north shore to open when the river level is six feet or less.

The exceptions are the tallest sailboats, some construction derricks, and large structures that have been built upstream of the bridges at shore facilities. With the exception of the first three weeks of the affected period when the draws need not open, an opening will be provided every two weeks. During summer months the openings average less than one per day, mostly for sailboats, some of which could pass the higher fixed spans if antennas were lowered.

Discussion of Proposed Rule

The established operating regulation for the Interstate 5 bridges requires that the draws open on signal except that they need not open from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Start Printed Page 52723Monday through Friday except federal holidays. Certain exceptions are made for commercial vessels depending upon the river gauge.

The proposed temporary rule would authorize a continuous closure of the draws from 6:30 a.m. July 15 to 9 p.m. August 6, 2004. On August 6 and 20, September 3 and 17 and October 1, 2004, openings will be provided on signal at 9 p.m. Openings need not be provided at times other than these from August 6 until 9 p.m. October 15. In the event that the river runs at 6 feet Columbia River datum or higher between 9 p.m. on August 6 and 9 p.m. October 15, 2004, or the date the drawbridges are restored to normal operation, the bridge owners would provide an assist tug to commercial tows when requested by the towing vessel master for safe passage through the bridges. For downbound tows, this assist boat may be retained until a tow has safely passed the Burlington Northern Santa Fe swing span 0.8 mile downstream of the dual highway bridges. The master of the vessel would inform the draw tender prior to arrival at the I-5 bridges whenever an assist boat is to be used.

Regulatory Evaluation

This proposed rule is not a “significant regulatory action” under section 3(f) of Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review, and does not require an assessment of potential costs and benefits under section 6(a)(3) of that Order. The Office of Management and Budget has not reviewed it under that Order. It is not “significant” under the regulatory policies and procedures of the Department of Homeland Security.

We expect the economic impact of this proposed rule to be so minimal that a full Regulatory Evaluation under the regulatory policies and procedures of DHS is unnecessary.

We do expect recreational sailboats to be affected by this temporary rule. This class of vessel most commonly requires openings of the subject drawbridges during the summer months. Some of these vessels will either have to find alternate moorage or otherwise be limited in their operating areas during the project. Others will be able to modify their top hamper by lowering antennas, instruments, masts, etc., in order to pass the bridge if the biweekly scheduled openings do not serve their needs. These vessel operators will receive notice of several months duration to plan their activities for summer 2004.

Small Entities

Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601-612), we have considered whether this proposed rule would have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The term “small entities” comprises small businesses, not-for-profit organizations that are independently owned and operated and are not dominant in their fields, and governmental jurisdictions with populations of less than 50,000.

The Coast Guard certifies under 5 U.S.C. 605(b) that this proposed rule would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. We expect that some recreational sailboat owners will be affected by this proposal. Most other vessels will either not require openings of the draws during low water season or will be accommodated by the biweekly scheduled openings. Some sail boaters will have to change their moorage and itineraries or modify their vessels to avoid delays.

If you think that your business, organization, or governmental jurisdiction qualifies as a small entity and that this rule would have a significant economic impact on it, please submit a comment (see ADDRESSES) explaining why you think it qualifies and how and to what degree this rule would economically affect it.

Assistance for Small Entities

Under section 213(a) of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996 (Pub. L. 104-121), we want to assist small entities in understanding this proposed rule so that they can better evaluate its effects on them and participate in the rulemaking. If the rule would affect your small business, organization, or governmental jurisdiction and you have questions concerning its provisions or options for compliance, please contact Austin Pratt, Chief, Bridge Section at (206) 220-7282.

Collection of Information

This proposed rule would call for no new collection of information under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501-3520.).


A rule has implications for federalism under Executive Order 13132, Federalism, if it has a substantial direct effect on State or local governments and would either preempt State law or impose a substantial direct cost of compliance on them. We have analyzed this proposed rule under that Order and have determined that it does not have implications for federalism.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (2 U.S.C. 1531-1538) requires Federal agencies to assess the effects of their discretionary regulatory actions. In particular, the Act addresses actions that may result in the expenditure by a State, local, or tribal government, in the aggregate, or by the private sector of $100,000,000 or more in any one year. Though this proposed rule will not result in such an expenditure, we do discuss the effects of this rule elsewhere in this preamble.

Taking of Private Property

This proposed rule would not affect a taking of private property or otherwise have taking implications under Executive Order 12630, Governmental Actions and Interference with Constitutionally Protected Property Rights.

Civil Justice Reform

This proposed rule meets applicable standards in sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988, Civil Justice Reform, to minimize litigation, eliminate ambiguity, and reduce burden.

Protection of Children

We have analyzed this proposed rule under Executive Order 13045, Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks. This rule is not an economically significant rule and would not create an environmental risk to health or risk to safety that might disproportionately affect children.

Indian Tribal Governments

This proposed rule does not have tribal implications under Executive Order 13175, Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments, because it would not have a substantial direct effect on one or more Indian tribes, on the relationship between the Federal Government and Indian tribes, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities between the Federal Government and Indian tribes.

Energy Effects

We have analyzed this proposed rule under Executive Order 13211, Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use. We have determined that it is not a “significant energy action” under that order because it is not a “significant regulatory action” under Executive Order 12866 and is not likely to have a significant adverse effect on the supply, distribution, or use of energy. It has not been designated by the Start Printed Page 52724Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs as a significant energy action. Therefore, it does not require a Statement of Energy Effects under Executive Order 13211.


We have analyzed this rule under Commandant Instruction M16475.lD, which guides the Coast Guard in complying with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA)(42 U.S.C. 4321-4370f), and have concluded that there are no factors in this case that would limit the use of a categorical exclusion under section 2.B.2 of the Instruction. Therefore, this rule is categorically excluded, under figure 2-1, paragraph (32)(e) of the Instruction, from further environmental documentation. There are no expected environmental consequences of the proposed action that would require further analysis and documentation.

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List of Subjects in 33 CFR Part 117

  • Bridges
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For the reasons discussed in the preamble, the Coast Guard proposes to amend 33 CFR part 117 as follows:

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1. The authority citation for part 117 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 33 U.S.C. 499; Department of Homeland Security Delegation No. 0170.1; 33 CFR 1.05-1(g); section 117.255 also issued under the authority of Pub.L. 102-587, 106 Stat. 5039.

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2. From 6:30 a.m. on July 15, 2004, until 9 p.m. on October 15, 2004, in § 117.869, suspend paragraph (a) and add a new paragraph (d) to read as follows:

Columbia River.
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(d) The draws of the Interstate 5 Bridges, mile 106.5, between Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA, need not open for the passage of vessels from 6:30 a.m. on July 15, 2004, to 9 p.m. on August 6, 2004, and at no other time until 9 p.m. on October 15 except for scheduled openings on signal at 9 p.m. on August 6 and 20 and September 3 and 17 and October 1, 2004.

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Dated: August 21, 2003.

Jeffrey M. Garrett,

Rear Admiral, Coast Guard Commander, Thirteenth Coast Guard District.

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[FR Doc. 03-22564 Filed 9-4-03; 8:45 am]