Deal puts Sternwheeler jobs in limbo


News staff writer

March 4, 2006

The crew of the Sternwheeler “Columbia Gorge” could lose their jobs if a deal goes through to keep the boat financially afloat.

Cascade Locks Port Director Chuck Daughtry said negotiations are underway to turn operation of the paddlewheel replica over to American Waterways.

If all of the details are worked out by the end of month as expected, he said all six full-time employees can apply for hire with the Portland-based company.

During the tourist season, about 60 more workers are added to the crew and Daughtry said they, too, will need to re-apply for their positions.

“The boat has not turned an operating cash flow in 13 years but this is not only money-driven. It’s an opportunity to take the business to the next level. American Waterways runs the Portland Spirit line and has the resources to bring in more charters and groups,” said Daughtry.

He said the sternwheeler, owned by the port for 23 years, has lost $3.3 million over the last decade in spite of increased marketing efforts.

Even though about $1.2 million is brought in each year, he said operating expenses run about $200,000 more.

It just makes good business sense, said Daughtry, to place the vessel in the hands of a firm with greater resources.

“We don’t know if we’ve got a deal yet but, if this goes through, we’ll bring more visitors into town.

“And that will mean more people eating at our restaurants and staying at our motels,” he said. “We think it’s going to have a better economic impact on Cascade Locks than what we could do,” he said.

Daughtry said the port decided to explore the idea of turning the vessel over to a private enterprise in January. He had been approached by a California company wanting to purchase the craft but port officials did not want to sell it.

He declined to release details about the potential financial benefits of the pending deal.

However, Daughtry said the port would receive a share of the profits and not be burdened with maintenance, insurance, labor and operating costs.

The port would also retain ownership and the name of the sternwheeler would remain the same.

“It is more traditional for a port to serve as a landlord and provide the facilities necessary for entrepreneurs to flourish,” he said.

Daughtry said the sternwheeler will continue to run cruises out of Cascade Locks from May through October.

But off-season excursions could be curtailed or kept in the Portland area — at the discretion of American Waterways.

“We feel that it is time to leverage what we’ve already accomplished.

“We’ve created the market and shown that you can make revenue with the sternwheeler,” said Daughtry. “Now it’s time to turn the sternwheeler over to a company that can make Cascade Locks the base for a much larger presence in the Gorge.”

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners