Havre Daily News
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection official has rejected a proposal to establish a 24-hour border crossing at the Port of Wild Horse, Havre Mayor Bob Rice said Tuesday.
U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., had forwarded the proposal to the agency on behalf of Rice and Mayor Garth Vallely of Medicine Hat, Alberta.
In a November letter to Burns, Thaddeus Bingel said the lack of traffic at the port, along with necessary changes that would have to be implemented, stand in the way of changing the port's hours of operation. Bingel is the assistant commissioner of the agency's Office of Congressional Affairs.
The port is now open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. From May 15 to Sept. 30, the port is open until 9 p.m. The nearest port open around the clock is at Sweet Grass, about 125 miles away.
Rice said he sent another letter to the agency last week, asking it to consider extending the hours on a probationary basis.
Rice and the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce have promoted a 24-hour border crossing at Wild Horse to help boost economic development and growth in Havre and north-central Montana.
“A review of the traffic patterns through the Port of Wildhorse indicates that our staffing and business hours are properly aligned with the workload,” Bingel wrote.
The port is about 50 miles northwest of Havre on Montana Highway 232, and annually inspects about 2,400 trucks and about 8,500 passenger vehicles, Bingel wrote. In the summer, agents inspect an average of 60 vehicles a day, while in the winter that number drops to about 20.
In the winter, vehicles often arrive a full hour or more after the port opens, and throughout the year it isn't unusual for the last vehicle to arrive an hour or more before the port closes, Bingel said.
“Since our records do not indicate an increase in activity in the first or last hours of operation, it does not appear that an expansion of our business hours is warranted,” Bingel wrote.
A potential increase in trade is “unlikely,” he wrote, because Wildhorse is a permit port through which prearranged commodities and goods enter. In order to expand operations to accept other cargo, the port would have to be reclassified as a commercial port, undergo “significant facility modifications,” and increase staff, Bingel wrote.
Changes in port operations have to be coordinated with the Canadian government, he added, and the agency does not have immediate plans to submit such a proposal to Canadian officials.