The federal government should find funding to maintain and upgrade the Ballard Locks and ensure passage to the Lake Washington Ship Canal remains safe and reliable.

Share story

Washington lawmakers are right to press President Donald Trump’s administration to fund much needed maintenance and upgrades at the Ballard Locks in Seattle.

In a letter sent Friday, a coalition of representatives urged Trump and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fund the locks improvements in their 2018 and 2019 budgets.

This work is needed to ensure that the Lake Washington Ship Canal’s linkage to Puget Sound continues to operate safely and reliably.

The locks are among numerous public facilities built over the last century to enable industrial activity and the rise of cities in the West. Many suffer from a backlog of maintenance, along with much of the nation’s infrastructure.

This is another element of frustration with Trump. He promised massive infrastructure spending, which would have received bipartisan support. Yet instead he’s pursuing divisive tax reforms that will put the nation deeper in debt and affect its ability to fund essential services and facilities.

Lacking a comprehensive infrastructure plan, places like the Puget Sound region must continually fight for dollops of funding to patch what they can.

The Ballard Locks are a strong candidate.

Much more than a tourist destination, the century-old locks are the nation’s busiest and support maritime industries generating more than $1.2 billion in annual sales. The facility provides the only access from Puget Sound for 50 businesses on the freshwater side that employ about 3,000 people, according to a study released last summer.

Yet the locks need $30 million to $60 million worth of work.

Friday’s letter notes that federal reviews deemed lock upgrades “high urgency” and found many of its components are in poor or failing condition. It specifically asks for $12 million to replace the original filling culvert valves with a more reliable hydraulic system that should also be safer for juvenile salmon.

The letter was sent by Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, along with U.S. Reps. Pramila Jayapal, Adam Smith, Rick Larsen, Dave Reichert, Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer.

Since budget earmarks are no longer allowed, such letters are used to highlight spending priorities.

These lawmakers’ advocacy is appreciated — especially that of Senate Appropriations Committee member Murray.

They should be sure to work with the rest of the state delegation to seek funding for the locks and other critical infrastructure and waterways in Washington that are maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.

It would especially help to add the voices of U.S. Reps. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, and Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas. They serve on the House appropriations energy and water subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the Army Corps civil works. Help from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, would also be welcome.

While these infrastructure projects are regional, the economic activity and diversity of employment opportunities they create benefit the entire state.