Port of Newport Commissioners will meet later this month to kick on their high beams on what port improvement projects are contemplated, extent of construction and repair and a strategy to raise the money to get it all done.
The port has come under a magnifying glass recently as Governor Brown and other top state officials have questioned the lack of progress in making the recently constructed Newport International Terminal, enabled by state and federal funds, to serve international shipping. Instead, it’s become a favorite working area for the commercial fishing industry.
To the point, many commercial fishing vessel owners recently up-sized their boats which Port Docks 5 and 7 cannot easily accommodate, at least in any great numbers. Right now the port is seeking grants and/or loans to bring those two facilities back to full operation – if not expanding them a bit.
More shipping out of Newport has been characterized as a safety valve for the Port of Portland which is straining under its high shipping tonnage which, according to ODOT, is shortening the life-span of Portland freeways caused by heavy cargo trucks enroute to the port. The state has also complained about a trend that shippers are bypassing the Port of Portland in favor of shipping out of Tacoma and Seattle – thereby costing Oregon a lot of revenue.
Fishing industry spokesmen have said that fishing and shipping activities at the terminal can co-exist – just not on the scale that seems to be at a level one might expect from the point of view of the shipping industry. Mid-Coast Trawlers Cooperative Executive Director Heather Mann told the Newport Port Commission that Newport does not have the expansive real estate that other ports like Coos Bay and Umatilla enjoy – so if any facility expansion is on the horizon, physical constraints on international shipping out of Newport are unavoidable. Mann added that if the state gave priority to shipping over fishing, the fishing fleet would likely leave Newport and head for Seattle, blowing a big hole in the Newport area economy.
In short, it’s a big picture with a lot of moving parts.
As mentioned in earlier stories, a bill has been introduced in the Oregon Legislature to take control away from “Newport locals” and replace them with “state oriented” commissioners who presumably believe that the Port of Newport is a badly under-performing “state” resource. The bill has already been assigned a legislative committee, but no dates for debating the measure have been announced.
All this and likely more will come up for discussion during the Newport Port Commission’s meeting on Wednesday, February 27th, at Noon at the South Beach Activities Room.