GOLD BEACH The presidents latest budget proposal would end maintenance dredging for the ports of Brookings Harbor, Gold Beach and Bandon.

Russ Crabtree, manager of the Port of Brookings Harbor, made that announcement Monday to the Curry County commissioners, and enlisted their aid in keeping the ports open.

The commissioners agreed to not only write letters of support, but to send Commissioner Lucie La Bont to Washington to help the port delegation fight for dredging.

Crabtree said maintenance dredging funds for any channel 14 feet or less deep will be zeroed out of the federal budget.

We cant let this stand as a community, said Crabtree. It would close our front door. Its the biggest challenge to come forward to coastal communities.

He said the value produced from the dollars spent on dredging is tremendous.

Crabtree predicted that within 12 months of the cessation of dredging, boaters would experience safety hazards.

He said the tourist industry would be hard hit in Brookings, Gold Beach and Bandon during the height of the tourist season.

Crabtree said all of the recent projects and investments at the port will be in vain if they shut our front door.

He promised to attack the dredging issue like a bulldog. He said he would bite into it and not let go until the federal government lives up to its responsibility.

La Bont said the Rogue River jetty was put in wrong and the federal government has the responsibility to keep dredging until they correct the problem.

You cant not dredge the Rogue, the Chetco, said Crabtree. He said the result would be flooding, along with environmental and economic damage.

Crabtree said the cities, chambers of commerce, ports and Oregons congressional delegation are all fighting the dredging closure. He asked the commissioners to join them.

He also said he would ask the Port of Bandon to organize a similar effort.

Crabtree said the port has scheduled three visits to Washington to present its case in the most opportune forums.

I understand there is a lot of pain for rural coastal communities in the presidents budget, he said. Im a little bit frustrated.

I will role up my sleeves and go to work, he told the commissioners, and leave no stone unturned. I know youll be with us.

This is not new, he said. We faced it in 1989, and we will do it again.

Crabtree said the announcement should also put the state on notice to take its maintenance dredging plan off the shelf. He said a state, local and federal strategic alliance is needed.

He said the dredging cut for all channels 14 feet or less deep is arbitrary and doesnt consider the return on waterways.

Crabtree said the ports of Port Orford, Reedsport and Siuslaw are all above the benchmark and are not threatened.

He said none of the ports have the resources to do the dredging on their own. He said the battle will have to be fought every year until the government develops a long-term dredging policy.

Commissioner Marlyn Schafer said the commissioners will be happy to join the port in its efforts this year.

She suggested the ports also look into working together to buy their own dredge and become more self-sufficient.

Schafer said the county has lottery funds and other economic development money it can use to send a representative to Washington to help plead the ports case.

She suggested La Bont be that representative because she has the most knowledge about the ports and Washington. She asked Crabtree when the most advantageous time would be.

To minimize costs, said Crabtree, the delegation will go to Washington when testimony is being taken, and will try to speak last for maximum impact.

He said the delegation would include two port commissioners from the Port of Brookings Harbor.