Susan McDaniel Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
A bill being sponsored by Rep. John Musgrove, D-Havre, urging Congress to establish a 24-hour port at Wild Horse, north of Havre, passed unanimously to the House in a hearing on Wednesday before the House Transportation Committee. It received support from some prominent people in both Montana and Alberta. Havre Mayor Bob Rice has been working with Medicine Hat Mayor Garth Vallely for almost four years on this project. “I was extremely pleased with John Musgrove and the way he handled things. He is a real gentleman and treated the Canadian guests like royalty,” Rice said. Rice intends to take his case to Washington D.C. in March. In his testimony Rice explained the difficulties working with Homeland Security. “They haven’t been responsive, don’t seem interested. We will never know if the 24 hour port will work unless we try it.” Vallely told the committee that “there is a concerted effort by a 14 member committee seven from Southern Alberta and seven from Northern Montana who are working with government officials to get approval of the 24-hour Port of Wild Horse.” Vallely stressed the need for the 24 hour port. “On industry alone justifies the increased hours at the border crossing. There are 12,000 trucks hauling fertilizer presently. That number is projected to increase to 18,000 trucks to meet demand. Fertilizer demand is seasonal and it must be delivered when needed,” Vallely said. Len Mitzel, M.L.A. for Cypress-Medicine Hat, a member of the Legislative Assembly in Alberta agreed with Rice and Vallely that the 24 hour port can be justified. Mitzel proposed legislation in the Alberta Legislature last spring supporting the 24-hour port and improving U. S. Highways 63 and 41 from Wild Horse north to the oil sands at Fort McMurray. “The legislation received a unanimous voice vote which is a feat in itself. The 24-hour port is essential if the projects are to move forward,” Mitzel said. Mitzel pointed out that the 24 hour port would establish a north-south trade corridor, “Montana and Alberta are trading partners and recently elected Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is committed to improving relations and trade with Montana.” Mitzel is a member of the 14- member committee that Vallely spoke of and also serves on the Montana-Alberta Bi-national Committee with Rep. Musgrove, Rep. Hal Jacobson D-Helena, Rep. Wayne Stahl R-Saco and Sen. Sam Kitzenberg D-Glasgow. Kay Olsen, executive director of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce from Edmonton was among the Alberta delegation who appeared at the hearing on HJ3.
“The full membership is in support of the 24-hour port, 22,000 businesses voted unanimously to support the effort and that is unheard of,” Olsen said. Harold Wilson, executive director of the Economic Development Alliance of Southeast Alberta and a member of the Montana Economic Development Association has been a leader in the 24-hour port effort. “It’s been a pleasure working with Craig Erickson of Bear Paw Development. We both recognize the importance of the 24- hour port to enhance economic development,” Wilson said. Alan Hyland, chairman of the Palliser Economic Partnership that represents 18 municipalities in Southern Alberta was involved in the effort to establish a 24-hour port some 30 years ago. “The difference is that back then it was politicians pushing the effort. This time it’s a grass roots effort and what a difference it has made,” Hyland said. Bob Sivertsen, Highway 2 Association said that “with the caliber of support the effort is gaining momentum and will have a positive impact when working with officials on the Federal level in the U.S. and Canada. In his testimony Sivertsen told the transportation committee “this is a Regional effort involving Montana, Alberta and Saskatchewan. With the tremendous grass roots support in the region the prospects are very favorable.” Rep. Musgrove thanked the committee for the unanimous support. “It is important for that the legislature pass HJ3 with unanimous support to send a clear message to federal officials,” Musgrove said. Other supporters of HJ3 who were at the Wednesday hearing were Sen. Ken Hansen, Dharlem, who will be carrying the bill to the Senate; Rep. Bob Bergren, D-Havre; Rep. Hal Jacobsen, D-Helena: Jim Lynch, director of the Montana Department of Transportation; Jim Treperinas, Havre; Bob Kaul, Havre; Charles Grant, Havre; Mike Anderson, Hill County commissioner; and Bill McCauley, Highway 2 Association board member.