Tester: Dept. of Homeland Security begins process of closing Port of Whitetail

Decision follows Senator’s recommendation to U.S. Customs and Border Protection

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will begin the process of closing the Port of Whitetail in northeastern Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester announced today.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection told Tester of the plan this morning, just days after recommending the port’s closure to the agency’s commissioner.

Congress will now have 90 days to review the closure proposal.  After 90 days, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will open a 60-day public comment period.  The agency would make a final decision after that.

Construction at the Port of Whitetail will not move forward during the process.

The government of Canada unexpectedly announced plans to close its side of the Port of Whitetail in August, more than a year after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security decided to upgrade the aging facility in order to meet post-9/11 security standards.  Tester recommended the port’s closure after learning last week that Canada had no plans to allow U.S. truck traffic to cross into Canada should the U.S. side remain open.

Tester said recommending the closure of the Port of Whitetail on September 22 was a “difficult decision” because during a crowded public meeting in Scobey earlier this month, there was no clear consensus from local residents on the future of the port.

“Some folks told me upgrading the port was the right thing to do, others felt the upgrade was too expensive,” said Tester, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.  “The days of protecting the United States from terrorism by putting orange cones in the road are over—and that used to be the case at Whitetail.  We can’t keep open an unsafe port that doesn’t meet today’s security needs, and with Canada’s recent decision, we can’t afford upgrading it.”

Tester today also had sharp words for politicians “who are shooting from the hip” on the Port of Whitetail issue.

“We’ve got some politicians telling us that ‘virtually no one wants or needs’ the Port of Whitetail, and that’s very clearly not true,” Tester said.  “And I invite anyone who believes rural Montana is ‘nowhere’ to come visit, or at least spend more time understanding the very real security threats we face at America’s remote border crossings.  Our homeland security and the strength of America’s ports of entry are far too serious for reckless soundbites and partisan haymaking.”