Central Coast Congressman Kurt Schrader announced Tuesday that it’s about to get easier for Lincoln County’s small ports, as well as other ports around the country, to get more frequent dredging for their facilities. Depoe Bay has picture of people literally walking on silt build up right next to their fuel docks. They expect to get dredged out very soon but they had to fight vigorously along with support from the state’s legislative coastal caucus and Oregon’s Congressional delegation to make it happen.
It’s but one example of what many call the step-children of America’s ports – too small to attract big money, which sometimes it takes to keep their ports open.
But Congressman Schrader says thanks to a big lobbying effort by the Oregon Coastal Caucus, the Oregon Congressional delegation, as well as many other coastal states around the country, new legislation has just been passed by both houses of Congress to carve out a piece of the national port dredging budget to ensure that small ports don’t get left out, high and near dry.
The annual dredging budget for the country comes to an estimated $90 to $100 million dollars. The new legislation will set aside ten percent of that for smaller ports nationwide. Port of Newport Commission Chair JoAnn Barton says it’ll further support Newport’s water commerce which, of course, includes the beginning of log exports from the new International Terminal. She said those exports were not part of the discussions or lobbying for more dredging because even with the added tonnage of log shipments, Newport still doesn’t qualify as a “major port” which gets regular funding. So even with the logs leaving the port, Newport is still, in the eyes of the federal government, a small port, according to Barton.
Port of Newport Manager Kevin Greenwood mirrored some of Barton’s comments adding that the Port of Newport’s rising importance in becoming the headquarters for NOAA’s Pacific Fleet has heightened the port’s strategic position for dredging which is coupled with the presence of the Coast Guard, commercial and recreation fishing and, of course, log exports.
Over in Toledo, Port Manager Bud Shoemake says the new small port status will help his port as well. He says the Port of Toledo is due for a new survey to see how the river bottom looks through there and whether they can expect dredging on their general schedule of every ten years “or so.” Shoemake says since it appears they’re in a good position to get funding for a new boat lift for their Yaquina Boat Works, timely dredging will remain a high priority for them.
At mentioned above, the Port of Depoe Bay has sometimes felt like the weak sister in the mix, realizing that it may be novel to claim to be the world’s smallest harbor, the designation doesn’t carry much PR advantage with the federal government’s Army Corps of Engineers which does most of the dredging. Depoe Bay city officials say they believe the new “small port” slice of the national dredging fund will certainly help.
Under the new arrangement, ten percent of the national port dredging budget will be set aside for small ports. It does not guarantee that all ports will get what they want when they want it, but at least through a competitive application process their chances of getting more timely dredging services from the federal government will rise.