Editor’s note: The headline and story have been updated to reflect more information regarding the current operator and the Port of Cascade Locks.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler that takes visitors on a cruise of the Columbia River will no longer be operating under its current operator in Cascade Locks after Dec. 31 due to a terminating contract.
The current contract between river cruise operator Portland Spirit and the Port of Cascade Locks states that the Portland Spirit will pay a monthly concession fee to the port and give them a commission on sales when profits exceed a certain amount.
In addition, the Portland Spirit contributes to the Cascade Locks Historical Museum and the Port of Cascade Locks’ annual fireworks show in cash.
The contract also states that Portland Spirit Cruises & Events must cover expenses brought on by the operational, labor and marketing costs of the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler, Cascade Locks Grill and the Cascade Locks Visitor Center in Marine Park.
In 2018, Portland Spirit sent the Port of Cascade Locks a proposal to extend operations for 15 years and to finance the repowering and interior remodeling of the vessel that is projected to cost $3 million. In response, the Port of Cascade offered a 5-year agreement that withdrew the Portland Spirit’s exclusive use of the dock for the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler. The port responded with additional concessions, as well.
While the Portland Spirit accepted a number of the concessions, they sent a counter offer with a 15-year agreement and a 5-year extension so the repowering and interior remodeling of the vessel could be paid off over time.
“We loved operating the Port’s historic vessel for the past 16 years,” Dennis Corwin, Portland Spirit General Manager, said. “We don’t know when the Sternwheeler will operate again in the future, but all our wonderful employees in Cascade Locks will be offered employment in Portland.”
According to a release, the Port of Cascade Locks has expressed interest in partnering with national cruise ship company American Cruise Lines that is based in Guilford, Conn., and relocating the popular Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler. They have not yet reached an agreement on who would pay to build the new dock, and where it would be located.
“The Port is disappointed that an agreement has not yet been reached with AWI,” Port General Manager Olga Kaganova told KOIN 6 News. She and Corwin led the negotiations. “The negotiations to date highlighted lack of agreement on major terms.”
“The Port plans to transmit the next and final iteration of the agreement to AWI as soon as it is finalized. It is the priority of the Port to retain the vessel in Cascade Locks throughout the summer. Next steps for the Sternwheeler are not yet known and are being thoughtfully considered by the Commission,” Kaganova said.
The Portland Spirit says they have invested more than $1.5 million into the operation of Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler since they entered into a contract with the Port of Cascade Locks in 2006.