Havre Daily News - News you can use

Designs being drawn for Wild Horse


January 9, 2010

Work is under way to upgrade the facilities of the Port of Wild Horse north of Havre on the U.S.-Canadian border, with Montana's senators working in another avenue to upgrade the hours and status of the port. Tara Dunlop, acting headquarters branch chief of the U.S. Customs a n d B o r d e r Protection Office of Public Affairs, said a project to moderni ze the agency's facilities at Wild Horse is i n the design phase. The pro j e c t raised national a t t ent i on l a s t s umme r wh e n p r o p o s a l s t o upgrade facilities at some border ports were questioned due to the low usage of the facilities. Dunlop sai d the project at W i l d H o r s e already had been awarded to a contractor and proceeded without a n y f u r t h e r review. Significant savings has been found in that project, Sen. Jon Tester's office reported. The project originally was expected to cost up to $15 million, and now is estimated at $8 million. Dunlop said construction is expected to start this spring and will take 12 months to 18 months to complete. The current facilities will remain in use until the new building is ready for occupancy, she said. The low usage of the Wild Horse port has been another hot topic of discussion in the region. The port, which is open to commercial traffic only through a permitting process, also is open limited hours. A push has been under way for several years to upgrade the facility to a commercial port open 24 hours a day. Supporters say that would better hook up Montana and the United States to one of Canada's strongest economic regions in Alberta. One of the dr ivers of Alberta's economy is oil and gas exploration and production in the area of Medicine Hat and the oil sands near Fort McLeod, both north of Wild Horse. Advocates of the upgrade at Wild Horse say the upgrade would allow traffic to flow directly from the United States to the oil and gas production in Alberta, rather than forcing a detour to the 24-hour commercial port at Sweetgrass north of Shelby. S eve ra l b u s ine s s e s i n Alberta, both in the petroleum industry and in other industries, have said they would use the Wild Horse port if it were upgraded, and that they also are interested in locating offices in the Havre area if the upgrade is made. Tester had sponsored legislation directing Customs and Border Protection to upgrade the Wild Horse port, but his office reports that the senator has been informed that the issue should be dealt with in legislation reauthorizing customs actions. Sen. Max Baucus' office reports that customs reauthorization legislation pending in the Finance Committee, which Baucus chairs, includes a pilot program that requires the designation of up to three additional northern ports as 24-hour commercial ports. Wild Horse is eligible for that upgrade, and Baucus hopes to move the legislation forward this year, his office reports.


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