Lawmakers to weigh in on container fees

Reps. Kerttula, Thomas work to protect Southeast interests in Washington group

Posted: Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Two Southeast Alaska state representatives have been appointed to a Washington state committee looking at ways of paying for improvements to Puget Sound container ports.

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Earlier this year, Washington legislators created a stir when they proposed charging a per-container fee on cargo moving through the port in an effort to pay for road and other improvements.

The container fee would have added a tax of $50 per 20-foot length of container, both coming and going. That would have meant an added expense of $265 per container, shippers estimated.

Appointed to Washington's Freight Investment Study Stakeholder Group were Reps. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, and Bill Thomas Jr., R-Haines, representing two of the districts that could have been most hurt by the tax.

The Alaska Legislature passed a resolution opposing the container fee. Washington Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, sponsored the bill in that state, but after Alaskans and others objected, her bill was changed to study the freight congestion problems in Washington instead of imposing a fee.

During the legislative session, Kerttula contacted Haugen by phone and asked if there were ways the two states could work on the problem, said Frank Ameduri, spokesman for Kerttula.

"Cooperation always produces better results than conflict," Kerttula said. "Sen. Haugen introduced her bill as a way to draw attention to the problem, and I'm glad that we've been invited to be part of the solution."

Thomas said he'd work to make sure any solution didn't harm Alaska.

House Speaker John Harris nominated Kerttula and Thomas to the committee. Its first meeting likely will be in mid- to late July.

• Contact Pat Forgey at or 523-2250 or

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