In Oregon, Boat Owner Worries Over Climate Change

Officials in Portland, Oregon, are planning a new light rail bridge over the Willamette River. Dan Yates, owner of a small company that runs boat excursions on the river, tells host Guy Raz he's afraid that climate change and rising water levels will keep his boats from passing under the proposed bridge.

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GUY RAZ, host:

Now, the Oasis of the Seas is so enormous, so huge, that earlier this month, when it passed beneath a bridge in Denmark, the captain had to retract the ship's smokestacks just to squeeze under it, and even then, the top of the stack cleared the bridge by just two feet.

It's what you might call a nightmare scenario for Dan Yates. He owns a small company out of Portland that runs boat excursions on the Willamette River.

Mr. DAN YATES (President, Portland Spirit): This is my passion. We do a lot of weddings. We do a lot of corporate functions.

RAZ: This time of year is the busy season, a season that coincides with the rainy winter months, and rain, of course, means higher water levels in the Willamette River, which could pose a problem for Yates once the city of Portland builds a new bridge over the river. It's part of a proposed expansion to the city's light rail project, and down the line, Dan Yates worries that the bridge might put him out of business.

Mr. YATES: I'm concerned that the climate change that have some people are talking about for our region is going to dramatically increase the river levels, which will then make my boat unable to transit reliably underneath this bridge.

RAZ: So he's asking the city to consider building the bridge higher, but Portland's mass transit agency says Yates has nothing to fear.

Here's the director, Robert Barnard.

Mr. ROBERT BARNARD (Project Manager, TriMet): Worst-case scenario for climate change, for 30 years out, there would be 13 days out of those 30 years that he wouldn't be able to pass under the bridge.

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