By BRIAN BULLOCK
After extensive lobbying efforts of many groups, including a delegation from the Port of Brookings Harbor, it appears federal funding for maintenance dredging of shallow draft harbors will be reinstated in the administration's 2002-2003 budget.
But how about beyond next year?
That's a question Port Director Russ Crabtree is trying to get answered; and he's having little luck getting a response, he told his board of commissioners Tuesday.
Crabtree said he met with the Army Corps of Engineers representatives in Coos Bay late last month. At that meeting he said he posed a simple question about future funding for maintenance dredging.
"We wanted to know exactly what was happening in (2004 and 2005)," he said. "We want to know what the district says about shallow draft port maintenance."
Crabtree said there were no answers forthcoming.
The port director said that even though the 2002-2003 federal budget has not yet been finalized, budgets for succeeding years are being formulated based on the district representatives' recommendations. He wondered aloud if that included "zeroing out" funding for maintenance dredging of shallow draft ports.
Crabtree said if he were projecting his own port's budget out to cover the next five years, he would start with the most recent budget and proposal. He said his question to federal administrators is "Are you doing the same thing?"
"We have a bigger issue than 2003," Crabtree told the commissioners.
District representatives told him he could see the five-year average of budgeting for maintenance dredging, but not recommendations for future years.
The port director said shallow draft port operators don't want to have to fight the same battle for federal funding year after year.
He also said he wanted to find out where the 14-foot limit defining "shallow draft ports" originated. He questioned whether or not the district representatives are relaying Southern Oregon ports' concerns about maintenance dredging to federal levels.
Crabtree offered to travel to the Portland district office for more information, but was told he could not see the information there.
"We never got the answer to Can we see what you said about us,'" Crabtree said.