Port of Newport officials, along with a spokeswoman from the Mid-Coast Trawlers Cooperative gave an update to the Newport City Council Monday night saying basically that the port can grow – just maybe not the way state authorities may have in mind.
Mid-Coast Trawlers spokeswoman Heather Mann said that a lot has changed over the past ten years as the Newport commercial fishing fleet as grown – certainly in the size of their fishing vessels. They need more room. Port Docks 5 and 7 simply don’t have the space for such large vessels. Besides those docks need millions of dollars in upgrades, if not outright replacement, as they are getting close to the end of their service life.
Mann reminded the council that fishing vessels based in Newport bring in many millions of dollars in fishing commerce from Alaska to Oregon which could be displaced if major shipping operations start using the port to export Willamette Valley farm products and other commodities. She said if that happens, the Newport fishing fleet may have no other option than to find a new port thereby taking their economic benefits with them. She said their new home port could be Seattle.
Meanwhile, a bill recently introduced to the Oregon Legislature, HB 2284, is hanging fire until hearings can be held on it. It basically replaces the Port of Newport’s style of governing itself as well as possibly changing the goals of the port to more resemble a large foreign export facility. Mann pointed out that the Port of Newport doesn’t have a lot of unused land in order to substantially expand facilities to handle agriculture, timber and other commodities. But she added that a proposal for limited log exports via Teevin Brothers could likely be accommodated.
But having said all that, it wasn’t clear that such a limited use of port facilities could pay off the loans the port took out in order to build the new terminal. At present, income from the port’s vacation R/V Park is keeping the port financially afloat. It was revealed that an additional $650,000 a year in revenue from the NIT is required but may take some time to develop. In the meantime, even a slight economic downturn of the national economy could create some real financial problems for the port.
In response Mann hinted that the fishing industry could be in a position to help ease the port’s financial strain. But no specific plan was described.
So as House Bill 2284 awaits a hearing in the legislature, which could make the Port of Newport a state controlled port, port officials are eagerly shopping for grants to help pay for the replacement of port docks 5 and 7. Port officials told the council that they’re filing their applications and giving it their best shot but added there’s no guarantees.
Officials from Thompson Sanitary addressed the council about their growing stress and strain with recycling plastics. Thompson officials reported that China has become a pretty advanced economic powerhouse which means they no longer accept America’s plastic debris unless its very, very clean. And of course a lot of it isn’t, so Thompson and other trash haulers just drive it to a landfill and dump there and cover it over with more trash and dirt. How long that’ll last is anyone’s guess. Discarded plastics could very likely be recycled right here in the U.S. But again, as of now, we’re just burying the stuff.
And a different kind of plastic commodity – plastic shopping bags – was back on the city council’s table for discussion. Some years ago Newport citizens voted down a proposed ban on plastic shopping bags. But it seems that Newport is no longer immune to the national mood of banning them – replacing them with long-lived re-usable bags made out of tougher stuff.
Many Newport and Newport area residents urged the council to develop a new city law that would ban nearly all plastic shopping bags and to do it over a fairly short period of time. Those urging the council to ban the bags cited how they get caught in trees, and on the beach and in the air – some of which are swallowed by a wide variety of animals and birds – others getting tangled up in them, choking to death or making them so sick they become easy prey. Human deaths from plastic bags are also common among young children and family pets.
Several citizens testified that plastic bags are decomposing in the ground, in ponds, rivers and streams and in the oceans – decaying down in to microscopic particles which find their way into drinking water supplies and into the food we eat.
Newport citizens voted several years ago to keep plastic shopping bags in general circulation. But with the heightened awareness of the dangers of so many plastic bags around the world and at home, the Newport City Council said maybe it’s time to bring the issue up again – to be decided by another public vote or a vote of the Newport City Council. As a way to figure a way forward the council scheduled a public hearing for March 4th at City Hall. Then another meeting at City Hall March 18th for the council to debate it. Then a decision sometime in April – made by the council or by another public vote.
And City Clerk-Recorder Peggy Hawker swore in Newport’s newest addition to the Newport Police Department. He’s Andrew Becerra, a Newport hometown boy who went to Newport High School, went off to college, and eventually returned home to Newport and is now a member of Chief Jason Malloy’s team.
In an earlier version of this story, it was indicated that Officer Becerra was being assigned a drug K-9 and a K-9 vehicle. That was in error. The new drug dog and vehicle are on their way to the police department to be taken over by another officer. Meanwhile Officer Becerra will be studying hard at the police academy in Salem.