The unexpected accumulation of sand and silt are causing major problems at the Port of Brookings Harbor
Port Executive Director Russ Crabtree quickly called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week for help in removing material blocking the main entrance channel off the Chetco River before boasts are damaged or trapped in port.
Harbor employees also began removing sand that has accumulated in the recreational boat basin and is buckling the docks at low tides.
This is a scary situation, Crabtree said Thursday, referring to the blockage of the entrance channel. We want to get the word out to mariners as soon as possible.
The build up of sand and silt in the channel has made it nearly impossible for many vessels to cross the bar at low tide, he said.
Word on the dock has it that one boat hit bottom on Wednesday and tilted sideways, he said.
Mariners notified the port about the shallow conditions in the channel on Monday. Crabtree immediately called the Corps of Engineers, which surveyed the channel on Wednesday, he said.
The survey results showed the channel, which is normally dredged to 20 feet, was at 6 to eight feet at low tides, Crabtree said.
It surprised us a little, he said. It happens to a certain extent this time of year every year, but not this extreme. Its worse than Ive seen in years.
Crabtree said the lack of rain this winter is partially to blame. The rain usually swells the river enough to knock out the buildup naturally, he said.
Vessels can still cross the bar without problems at higher tides, he said.
With the Corps large dredge Yaquina in a Portland dry dock, a smaller flusher dredge located in Coos Bay will arrive in Brookings in about a week to clear the channel, Crabtree said.
The federal government is required to keep the channel dredged to at least 14 feet, he said. Crabtree said the issue validates his continuing campaign to keep minimum federal dredging on the South Coast.
This is a good example of why we need federal appropriations, he said.
If the port ever had to close the bar completely to recreational and commercial vessels, the economic impact on Brookings-Harbor would be devastating, Crabtree said.
Thats like closing the front door on the community, he said.
The main entrance channel isnt the only problem area at the harbor.
The east side of the recreational boat basin has silted up quicker than expected, causing the new concrete docks to buckle in some places at low tide.
Employees at the port, which already had a permit from the Corp to remove the sand there, began doing so on Thursday using a crane, bucket and dump truck. The work was expected to be finished by the end of Friday, Crabtree said.
Siltation of the boat basin was anticipated, but not so soon after dredging the area about six months ago when the new docks were put in, Crabtree said. Normally, dredging would only be necessary once a year, he said.
The siltation is caused by the natural currents and movement of sediment in the harbor, as well as material that flows into the harbor through storm runoff, Crabtree said.