The Port of Port Orford will be dredged after the state reached an agreement with the Army Corps of Engineers, bringing relief to the local fishing fleet and community already struggling economically to stay afloat.
The agreement, signed between the state and the corps on Sept. 17, will provide state funding for dredging projects in small harbors. Federal funding for dredging was cut in the 2013 federal budgets, leaving small ports in the lurch.
According to Matt Rabe, spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers, the contract for dredging Port Orford will be issued in November, with it being awarded typically a few days after. He anticipates the dredging to start in December.
Dredging has already begun on the entrance of the Siuslaw River, with the Umpqua River and Port Orford to follow soon after.
Besides the ports to be dredged this year, the agreement also includes future plans to dredge other small ports on the Oregon Coast.
Port Orford has not been dredged since 2010. The port is unique in that it has a crane to hoist boats out of the water and load them onto dollies.
The Port of Port Orford had been dredged annually, but has not since 2010 because the corps decided it, and many other small ports on the Oregon coast, were not economically significant enough. There is an over $80 billion backlog of work the corps needs to address in infrastructure projects nationwide, from dredging to dam and levee maintenance.
An extension in the breakwater constructed at the Port of Port Orford in 1968 contributed to silt build up. Silt in the harbor has severely limited the amount of time fishing vessels can be out to sea and when they can go fishing. The shallow water is also dangerous for fishermen, and could wreak havoc on boats.
Sam Scaffo, president of the Port Orford Port Commission, said it would be good to have the port dredged by the opening of crab season.
“It’s one of the most important for fisherman,” Scaffo said. “Crab season is one of the biggest economic drivers in the community.”
Fishing is one of the main economic drivers in the small community of around 1,100. It is estimated that 30 percent of the immediate area’s income is derived from fishing.