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Porthill POE will keep expanded hours

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | July 27, 2023 1:00 AM

PORTHILL — The Porthill port of entry is among those that will keep its expanded hours after an analysis by U.S. Customs and Border Protection which had temporarily lengthened hours at six ports of entry this spring, including the Idaho POE.

"After a thorough analysis of the data, CBP is announcing its decision on the permanent hours at these ports of entry," officials said in a Wednesday press release.

CBP has decided to maintain the expanded hours at the Sherwood, Porthill and Del Bonita ports of entry. The hours at the Maida, Northgate and Laurier ports of entry will return to the hours in use before the temporary expansion.

CBP officials said the Porthill port of entry will stay open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily beginning July 31, rather than returning to prior reduced hours. The Sherwood port of entry will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, beginning July 31; and Del Bonita will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, beginning Aug. 14.

Hours at the Maida and Northgate ports of entry in North Dakota, and Laurier, Wash., port of entry will return to hours in use before the temporary expansion.

The Maida port will operate 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily beginning July 31; Northgate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily beginning July 31; and Laurier from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily beginning Aug. 14.

Shortly after the announcement, U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, criticized the decision to maintain the adjusted hours. Instead, he called on the agency to return the ports to pre-pandemic levels.

Prior to the pandemic, Porthill was open until 11 p.m.

Risch said he will introduce legislation requiring CBP’s hours of operations at northern ports to match or exceed pre-pandemic hours.

“Shortened hours at America’s northern ports, like Porthill in Idaho, have detrimentally affected our economy and hurt our communities and the state of Idaho," Risch said.

The pandemic is long since over; therefore, Risch said hours imposed as a result of that pandemic should end. Before the pandemic, the port was open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

"CBP’s failure to return to pre-pandemic hours is unacceptable," he said. "To address their negligence, I am introducing a bill to require our northern ports to at minimum return to pre-pandemic hours.”

The Idaho senator was among those who signed a bicameral, bipartisan letter to CBP demanding it permanently expand the hours of operations at ports of entry in Idaho and other northern states to match or exceed operating hours with their adjacent Canadian Border Services Agency ports.

Many Boundary County businesses said they have been sigificantly affected by the border closure, especially Jake’s Landing, a convenience store, package depot, fuel islands and seasonal restaurant that acts as an event center — all of which is in close proximity to the U.S.-Canadian border.

Lars Jacobson, owner of Jake’s Landing at Porthill, previously told the Herald that the closure during COVID-19 drastically affected his business, since approximately 95% of their customers are Canadians.

The decision to maintain the expanded hours at the Idaho and North Dakota ports follows a decision in April to temporarily expand hours at six ports of entry within the Seattle Field Office’s area of operations.

On April 1, the ports of entry at Porthill and Maida, Northgate and Sherwood, each expanded operations by two hours. On April 15, the Laurier (Wash.) port of entry expanded operations by two hours, and the Del Bonita port of entry in Montana, expanded from operating five to seven days a week.  

Once the temporary 120-day expansion period was complete, CBP conducted an analysis of traffic flow — including an hourly breakdown, overall volume, and types of conveyances that crossed the border. As part of the review, CBP officials said they identified potential alternate ports of entry, reviewed community impacts, and considered similar expanded hours at these locations.

"For several years, CBP has documented a reduction in privately-owned vehicle and pedestrian traffic at some POEs along its northern border with some ports having permanently reduced operational hours prior to 2019," officials said. "As part of CBP’s obligation to use its resources responsibly and most efficiently, continual evaluations of workload, staffing, operating costs, and traffic volumes were performed to align operating hours that reflect traffic patterns and place employees where they can be most useful.

CBP officials said in a press release that the agency is working closely with partners on the details and is in close coordination with local governmental officials and congressional stakeholders.

"These efforts enable CBP to better align staffing during peak hours, which in turn, allows CBP to better serve the public and protect our country," officials said in the release.

There are two POE in Boundary County, Porthill-Rykerts and Eastport-Kingsgate.

Porthill connects to British Columbia and connects the Bonners Ferry and Creston, B.C., communities, which are both in the Kootenai Valley.

Eastport is historically used as a trucking route for U.S-Canadian commerce, connecting Idaho to the Alberta Province. The POE operates 24/7 and its hours were not changed during the pandemic.