WASHINGTON Senator Gordon Smith, R-Ore., announced Tuesday that he will work to ensure that the U.S. Corps of Engineers budget includes dredging funds for the ports in Curry County and throughout Oregon.

The Corps proposed fiscal year 2003 budget includes no funding for ports in Brookings, Bandon and Gold Beach, or for the maintenance of the Columbia River.

Oregons coastal communities and much of the state depend on well-maintained navigation channels for their economic survival, Smith said. Access to the sea determines our states ability to fish, attract tourists and export goods.

Without increased funds for operation and maintenance of our ports and waterways, many Oregonians will see their dreams and aspirations disappear. I will be doing everything I can to make sure that doesnt happen.

Oregons rural and coastal communities are being threatened by the proposed elimination of funding for Operation and Maintenance (Oandamp;M) dredging by the Corps of Engineers.

These channels are heavily used by commercial fishermen and recreational boaters. They also support marinas, the commercial fishermen, industry and tourism.

In addition, Smith said the proposed budget ignores the need for primary commercial waterways serving Oregon, Southwest Washington and the manufacturing and agricultural economies of the Inland Empire comprising Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

Congress must increase funding for our waterways if Oregons coastal communities are to recover from the current recession and avoid years of slow economic growth in the future, said Smith.

Russ Crabtree, manager of the Port of Brookings Harbor, said Tuesday he wasnt surprised by Smiths action.

I knew that Senator Smith, along with Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman (Peter) DeFazio are there for us, Crabtree said. Our ports are their number one priority.

He added, Theyre doing a great job. We really appreciate what the senators and congressman are doing for us.

Crabtree said he was asked to fly to Washington and speak to members of the House Appropriations Committee Thursday, but couldnt. He sent a three-page statement Tuesday that will be read to the committee instead.

In the statement, Crabtree said, ...without continued federal maintenance of our channel, the future of the entire community of Brookings-Harbor and the surrounding areas of Coos, Curry and Douglas counties will be jeopardized. We ask you to restore the traditional funding levels for the maintenance of our coastal navigation channels.

The statement explained how important the shallow draft channels at Brookings, Gold Beach and Bandon are to the surrounding communities.

The dependence of entire communities on these navigation channels is undeniable. The economic dislocation, including unemployment, which would result from closing of these channels, would be devastating.

Crabtree pointed out that, unlike larger cities, communities on the South Coast do not have a federal highway, federal rapid transit, a large federal courthouse or postal distribution facility to generate federal dollars for the area. What the communities do get from the federal government is coastal protection and the Corps of Engineers maintenance.

To deny us these federal services, when Congress has already dedicated funds and a revenue stream to pay for them, is extremely disappointing, Crabtree said.

He concluded his statement by saying, Make no mistake about it; we at Brookings-Harbor, not only at the port, but also throughout the community, are disappointed that this situation is taking place and that coastal communities can be dismissed so carelessly.

I can also say this position is true for communities of Bandon and Gold Beach. We ask Congress to restore this funding to its historical levels.