Changing method of running the Port of Newport:
The Newport City Council Tuesday evening was asked to support a community vote on whether the state should “take over” the Port of Newport. The council took no action on it since it wasn’t an agendized item. But it will likely be raised during the February 4th City Council meeting. State officials contend the port has suffered ineffective leadership due, in part, to constant turnover of port commissioners and managers. There’s a bill in the upcoming state legislature to turn the Port of Newport into a state-run port with governor-appointed port commissioners as was done a number of years ago at the Port of Coos Bay.
State officials contend the port, especially the Newport International Terminal, has not made much progress in transforming some of its facilities to accommodate international shipping, including exports of Oregon agriculture and other products. State officials also contend the state’s many million dollar investment in the port is not being effectively utilized. They point out the only partially finished Newport International Terminal, constructed primarily for international shipping, has been largely used by the fishing fleet who are strongly represented on the current Port of Newport Commission. The state- proposed “reformed” port commission shows one representative for the fishing industry, one seat for the longshoremans’ union, one for timber and agriculture industries, local Chamber of Commerce (or other business not related to fishing) and a seat for a member of the public at large.
Another aspect at play here is relief for the Port of Portland that is having to divert some of its cargo volumes north to Seattle and Tacoma, causing lost income for Oregon companies and their workers. ODOT has also pointed out that heavy truck traffic using the Port of Portland is taking a maintenance toll on I-205 and other Portland area freeways.
It’s become obvious that the state’s investment in the Port of Newport reveals, in the eyes of state lawmakers, that the port is a rising star as a statewide international shipping outlet much like Coos Bay. Local control seems less important to state officials than fulfilling the purpose behind huge state investments in the Port of Newport. Likewise, it helps to explain the recent Highway 20 improvements through the Eddyville area that makes it easier for truckers to make their way from the Willamette Valley to the ports on the coast.
State legislative hearings on the Port of Newport’s re-focused transformation are expected to be launched fairly soon. However, Rep. David Gomberg and the Newport Port Commission will be lobbying lawmakers to allow local control to remain in the decision mix.
Possible ban on single use plastic bags:
The council was asked to initiate a ban on plastic shopping bags due to the Earth’s oceans becoming contaminated with them and the fact that the bags are hard to recycle, when they can be recycled at all. Thompson Sanitary representatives said the bags are a giant headache for their company. The council referred the matter to the City Manager’s Office, to be possibly re-discussed at the February 4th council meeting. A number of Oregon cities have adopted such a ban and others are considering it. There are two bills before the upcoming state legislature to ban single use plastic bags. Paper and re-usable bags are seen by many to be a workable alternative.