Army expresses interest in renting Port of Mattawa land

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Rachal Pinkerton/Sun Tribune Command Sergeant Major Paul P. DeSanto (left) from the Yakima Training Center talks to the commissioners for the Port of Mattawa about the Army’s training plans.

MATTAWA — The Army has expressed interest in renting Port of Mattawa property to use as a staging area for potential river crossing exercises.

Army Command Sergeant Major Paul P. DeSanto, of the Yakima Training Center, talked to the Port of Mattawa commissioners during a regular meeting on Monday, Dec. 9. Currently, the Army has a boat launch on its property on the west side of the Columbia River. It also has two boat launches on the east side of the river that haven’t been used for approximately 20 years.

“In the future, we’re looking to do bridging and rafting operations,” DeSanto said. “Currently, we can only do rafting operations.”

DeSanto said that the Army is looking to do a major bridging operation in 2022. He said that the Army is looking to impact the land they use as little as possible. The base has an environmental team that repairs any damage done to the land during operations.

According to DeSanto, the first river crossing will take place in August of 2020.

“We want to make sure the Mattawa community knows that they may see an increase of military vehicles,” DeSanto said.

The commissioners’ concern with the proposal was the amount of time the Army would want to use the land.

“People are interested in developing,” Commissioner Lauri Dayton said. “Long term may not be a viable option. We have all of our sunk costs into this.”

DeSanto said that his visit to the Port was to get the conversation started. He also said that they would establish a rental agreement prior to using any port land.

“We want to be good partners,” DeSanto said. “Hopefully we can start a good partnership.”

In other business, the commissioners voted to give the Desert Aire Owners Association $1,000 for its 50th anniversary calendar and celebration. Three members of the association were present at the meeting to request the funds.

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Desert Aire Owners Association (DAOA) will be putting on approximately 16 events this summer to bring people to Desert Aire. They will be promoting their events in Seattle, Spokane, Yakima, Wenatchee and other places. For each of the events, Desert Aire will be collecting data on who comes to each event, where they are from, whether they are spending the night and other tourism-related questions. The DAOA has offered to share the data with the Port. The Port is hoping to use the data to attract a hotel and other businesses to Mattawa.

The DAOA is also promoting the Port of Mattawa at its visitor center. The Port is hoping to have a booth at some of the Desert Aire events as well.

As part of the 50th anniversary celebration, Desert Aire will be refreshing its website. The redesign will go live in the new year.

Rachal Pinkerton may be reached via email at rpinkerton@suntribunenews.com.

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