CRABTREE TO SEEK DREDGE FUNDING
March 21, 2002 11:00 pm

By BRIAN BULLOCK

When Russ Crabtree goes to Washington D.C. next month, the Brookings Harbor port manager will not only be asking the House Appropriations Committee to reinstate federal funds used for dredging the harbor, he will be asking the government to invest in itself.

Crabtree is one of several representatives from Oregon coastal communities set to visit federal lawmakers April 7-11 in an attempt to persuade them to continue funding dredging operations which have been scheduled to be terminated next year.

President Bushs proposed budget for fiscal year 2003 would eliminate dredging of all shallow draft ports.

The Army Corps of Engineers has historically dredged all shallow draft ports to allow easier commercial and recreational access. Next year, however, in a cost-cutting move, the federal government intends to eliminate maintenance dredging for shallow draft ports.

The proposal would stop federal dredging operations in inlets of 14 feet or less, which includes Brookings Harbor.

We think the 14-foot limit is an arbitrary limit, Crabtree told the port commissioners at Tuesday nights meeting.

Crabtree, in a letter to the House Appropriations Committees Energy and Water Subcommittee drafted earlier this month, said The Port of Brookings Harbor utilizes its shallow draft navigation channel to provide the economic foundation for a large and rural corner of the State of Oregon.

He also explained that commercial and recreational use of the channel is a key economic ingredient to the survival and prosperity of not just Brookings Harbor, but the surrounding areas of Coos, Curry and Douglas counties.

Statistics show that the Port of Brookings Harbor is the third busiest in the state and by far the most active shallow draft port, supporting approximately 36,000 vessel transits annually. Crabtree also noted that the Brookings Harbor marina is the second largest in the state with 900 moorages that are fully occupied and have a three-year waiting list.

In the letter to the House subcommittee, Crabtree estimated the economic impact to Brookings Harbor at hundreds of jobs and $5 million to $7 million worth of vessel revenue.

Multiply that amount of revenue loss by the hundreds of coastal cities nationwide that depend on shallow draft ports, Crabtree said, and it makes the governments cost savings for cutting out dredging those ports seem like small change.

And, he added, it would make good economic sense to keep these small ports viable through continued maintenance.

The small investment the government makes is returned 10-fold, Crabtree told the commissioners.

The letter to the House subcommittee chided the administrations long-term objective of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to terminate federal responsibility for maintaining navigation channels at ports which do not generate revenue for the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.

Crabtree said the OMB does not place economic value on tourism and recreational boating when considering economic benefits versus maintenance expense.

He said the Corps of Engineers only consideration is commercial cargo vessel transits.

That criteria eliminates all smaller ports in the country from receiving federal funding for maintenance dredging beginning next year, according to the administrations budget proposal.

Oregons other shallow draft ports on the list to be cut from maintenance dredging are Bandon, Coquille River, Port Orford, Depoe Bay and Gold Beach.

Well be working for the Port of Brookings Harbor, Crabtree said. Were working for the other parts of Oregon as well, when we go to Washington.

Crabtree said despite apparent intentions of the administration and the OMB, he thinks with the backing of state legislators and lobbyists, the countrys small port representatives will be successful in their quest.

Im optimistic well get (the funding) reinstated for 2003, Crabtree said.