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Legislation promises dredge funding

Legislation passed by the U.S. House this week promises much needed dredging funds for Curry County’s struggling ports.

The Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 — a bill to provide funding to dredge small ports — passed by a 417 to 3 vote in the U.S. House and is now ready to be reconciled with a Senate bill passed earlier this year.

The decision is especially import for the Port of Gold Beach, which had no money to dredge this year, something that Port Manager Debbie Collins said needed to happen. 

“It gives a little bit of stability,” Collins said. “At the beginning of the year there was no money for dredging small ports.”

Ted Fitzgerald, port manager for the Port of Brookings Harbor, said the funds being set aside is a step in the right direction.

“It’s certainly a lot better than the share we’re accustomed to getting,” Fitzgerald said. “It provides a funding source where there is no funding source now.”

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) applauded the passage of the bill that will give the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the authorization to move forward with overdue navigation, flood control and environmental restoration projects.

“Today the tide turned for some of Oregon’s coastal communities,” DeFazio said in a prepared statement. “The federal government will no longer shirk its responsibility to safeguard infrastructure that is critical to thousands of fishing jobs and our local economies. These communities have been neglected for too long. This legislation will ensure that our most critical needs will be met in our ports and harbors — no matter what size.”

For years, Oregon’s coastal communities have been in economic limbo as the Corps’ dredging and maintenance projects were underfunded and the backlog of unmet needs grew, DeFazio said.

Under current law, no money is set aside for small ports, but DeFazio successfully advocated for a guarantee that some funding would be allocated for harbor maintenance and projects in small ports.

Investing in ports’ infrastructure will prevent more costly fixes in the future, DeFazio said. 

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