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Newport Port Commission: Why won’t the Coast Guard or Homeland Security answer our questions?

Coast Guard wants to base two 110' Coast Guard Sentinel Class Cutters in Newport - or Astoria.  But communications aren't so good...

Coast Guard wants to base two 110′ Coast Guard Sentinel Class Cutters in Newport – or Astoria. But communications aren’t so good…

Some time back the Coast Guard and their big brother Department of Homeland Security wrote a letter to the Port of Newport saying, “We’d sure like to homebase two of our latest patrol cutters in your port. What do you think?”

The port’s initial reaction was one of near jubilation because it would help the port’s bottom line in light of the crash of the Asian raw log market.

But port officials quickly learned that the Coast Guard and Homeland Security seemed more intent on having a one-way conversation. The demands were for two berths when the port said it could only provide one. Also, since NOAA controls all the docks the port reasoned it would be smart if NOAA was brought into the discussions.

Then Coast Guard/Homeland Security started talking about a new 400 foot long dock addition to the NOAA facility to accommodate the new cutters.

The port was taken aback by that because you don’t just throw up new docks without an environmental assessment and some very expensive mitigation somewhere else, in the bay or along the river, to compensate for loss of fish and other wildlife habitat taken up by such a large dock.

Silence from Coast Guard/Homeland Security.

Port Commission wonders what’s going on.

Port Commissioner David Jincks was the first to “cut through the fog” by saying that the port’s first loyalty is to NOAA. Jincks said NOAA is leasing the facility and NOAA has their own plans for it. Secondly, says Jincks, the port isn’t done completing all the environmental mitigation required for everything that’s been built already. Couple that with the need to do major repairs, even possibly expansion to Port Dock 5, and all the mitigation that will be required for that, and you’ve got a lot of uncertainty, if not a huge financial exposure. Jincks said there are many unknowns at this point – and that the Coast Guard/Homeland Security needs to be fully transparent in their communications with the port.

Commissioner JoAnn Barton chimed in with her full support of Jincks’ position. However other commissioners, along with Port General Manager Kevin Greenwood, urged that the port try to be a bit more forward with their communications with the Coast Guard/Homeland Security to get a more fluid two-way conversation going.

And that’s pretty much where the subject was left.

Newport is not the only location that the Coast Guard/Homeland Security Department is looking at. The Port of Astoria is also in the running.

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