Great Falls Tribune: Port to remain open 24 hours, senators say

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have reportedly told Montana’s congressional delegation the Raymond Port of Entry will remain a 24-hour entryway into Canada, shelving plans to close it for six hours daily due to low traffic volume.

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., put out news releases last week stating that plans to reduce hours at the port 15 miles north of Plentywood had been scrapped.

Daines said that he and fellow Montana Republican, U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, met with CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, Commissioner urging him to abandon reduced hours at the port, which borders Saskatchewan.

Tester said he met with Kerlikwoske as well.

Closure hours had been proposed for midnight to 6 a.m., leaving a 550-mile gap between ports. Officials said CBP has pointed out that an average of 3.39 vehicles are using the crossing between the hours of midnight and 8 a.m. in 2015, and more than half of those came through just after 6 a.m.

Officials estimated it is tallied $340,000 in overtime and $200,000 in temporary duty costs to maintain a 24-hour crossing at the port.

“They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease and I know we’ve been squeaking for a while on this, so I am pleased to see the folks of Northeastern Montana will continue to have a 24-hour port at Raymond,” Tester said via emails.

Tester and Daines called it a victory for the economy, Northeast Montana, and producers who will continue to be able to move their quality products to market.

Daines, who noted he and Zinke intervened several times, called it “welcome news for Montana farmers and ranchers who need to get their goods to market.”

The Port of Raymond is one of three major border crossings that are part of the commercial “Ports-to-Plains” trade corridor and the only port in the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway, a congressionally delegated high priority corridor, Daines said.

Gordon Stoner, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers and a farmer from Outlook, thanked Tester for his actions, saying that protecting the 24-hour status at the port allows producers to continue receiving seed and other essential products without being forced to travel long distances,” Daines stated.