CRABTREE EXPLAINS HOW PORT POLICES, PROTECTS ENVIRONMENT

January 10, 2002 11:00 pm
aRuss Crabtree uses a map of port during presentation. ().
aRuss Crabtree uses a map of port during presentation. ().

Russ Crabtree, manager of the Port of Brookings Harbor, said he gives many presentations on economic development at the port, but rarely gets the chance to speak about how the port protects the environment.

He said the chance to speak to the Chetco Watershed Council Wednesday night was a unique opportunity to talk about environmental policies that had been in place for years.

The biggest future threat to the estuary, said Crabtree, would come not from fishermen, but from people living on board boats.

I expect to see that to a much larger degree than what we see now, he said.

That is why live-aboards are now limited to 21 boats in the port. The ports security force monitors boats for that.

Crabtree said the port doesnt target transient commercial fishermen who sleep onboard or recreation fishermen on weekends.

The problem, he said, is sewage, and also garbage. The port once hauled a refrigerator out of the boat basin.

An extensive cleanup of the port was undertaken in 1994, said Crabtree. It cost $50,000 just to haul off the household garbage, which was infested with rats.

The Chetco estuary is my top concern for any project, said Crabtree to the council.

He said the port is the point of demarcation. Most pollutants dont originate there, but wash down from the Harbor Hills and highway, and end up at the port.

The port has oil separators for some activities. There are also signs at the boat wash in the recreational parking lot warning fishermen to use biodegradable detergents.

Crabtree said if the port is notified of boats being washed with polluting materials, it can enforce the rules. He said environmental rules are included in all rental and moorage agreements.

The port built a state-of-the-art fish cleaning facility, said Crabtree, where solids are screened out, then ground to 5 millimeters.

The solids then used to be dumped in the river, but are now taken to a rendering plant in Redding, Calif.

He said sending the solids out requires less port labor. When being dumped, the solids had to be fresh, presenting another problem.

Crabtree said a fish processing facility is on the drawing board at the port. He said it would have a 21st century pretreatment system.

Well make sure the facility doesnt degrade the estuary, he said.

Crabtree said the port has kept the environment in mind during all its recent construction projects.

When the docks were replaced in the sport basin, cathodic steel pilings replaced the old wood pilings that were coated with petroleum-based products.

We now have the newest, highest-quality boat basin on the coast, said Crabtree. Pilings will also be replaced in the ports other boat basin.

The port does its own construction, he said, within windows of opportunity outlined by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. It doesnt construct at times that could hurt certain species.

The docks for the new marine fueling station will have windows to allow ambient light to reach the water.

We do that willingly, he said.

Crabtree said the port may debate agencies on how many windows are needed in docks, but works through the fine details.

We have the best recreational port on the Oregon Coast, said Crabtree. The bar is crossed 23,000 times a year.

He said part of that is because the port belongs to the Klamath Management Zone Fisheries Coalition. Nita Rolfe, the ports marketing director, was recently elected to chair the coalition.

Crabtree said what recreational fishermen need is time on the water and opportunity to fish. The coalition and the Port Fisheries Committee helps the port push for that goal.

The Chinook salmon season closes in July to give coho salmon a chance to spawn and rebuild their population.

The port is so clean, said Crabtree, that its dredgings can be used to replenish Sporthaven Beach.

The Army Corps of Engineers picks disposal sites in 20 feet of water just off the beach.

He said Brookings Harbor is the only port in Oregon that gets a secondary beneficial use out of its dredgings. He said it couldnt do that if the soil on the river bottom was contaminated.

Another recent project was to install four aerators to improve the water quality of Boat Basin No. 1 (formerly the sports basin).

He said the port had first considered breaching the dike to allow the stagnant water to circulate, but a study showed that wouldnt be as effective as the aerators.

The aerators were purchased with a donation from the South Coast Fishermen. Watershed council member Val Early reminded Crabtree that about $10,000 of that had come from the Cal-Ore Fish Derby.

Crabtree admitted the aerators wouldnt help prevent another massive anchovy die-off if nature was bringing in the anchovies and nutrients from the ocean.

He said aerators would improve the stagnant water, however, and help young salmon.

Crabtree said the port would also like to circulate the water more and reduce phosphates in Boat Basin No. 2 (formerly the commercial basin), so it might install four more aerators there.

He said the ports surge suppression project to relocate the entrance of the boat basins farther upstream will provide a flushing factor that might lessen the need for aerators.

He said the port has a spill containment policy. People used to spray oil spills with soap, he said, but that just hid the problem.

The port uses a chemical compound that transforms a spill into a ball that can be scooped up.

Crabtree said the port has a boom, absorbent pads and the chemical to fight spills. He said some spills can be federalized, which opens up $25,000 in funds for the cleanup.

For major spills in the shipping channel, he said, the Coast Guard has a boom to protect the entrance to the river.

Crabtree said the ports responsibility is to contain spills. It pays others to do the actual cleanup.

The ports shipyard still had a sandblasting pit in 1994, said Crabtree, but it was removed and disposed of carefully.

Any sandblasting now has to be totally encapsulated and all materials hauled off at the owners expense. Over-water work must also be encapsulated and sanders must be of the vacuum type.

Crabtree said violators of any environmental rules can be fined.

Today, commercial fishermen comply with no question, he said. They care about the estuary. They know it is necessary for economic development.

Crabtree said the port used to have several waste oil tanks, which have been decomissioned.

The waste oil facility is now pumped out daily. The port also has port-a-potty dump stations.

The port asks that ballast water be pumped out as far offshore as possible. Crabtree said bilge pumps sometimes come on at night in the boat basins and pump oil out with water.

He said the port watches for that and contacts the Coast Guard, which can trace the oil back to the boat.

Overall, from an environmental procedure curve, said Crabtree, were far ahead of ports our size.

He said the ports policy is to give information so there wont be an environmental problem. If there is a problem, he said, We fix it fast.

He said most fishermen comply with the regulations willingly. Problems usually indicate a lack of knowledge, so its up to the port to educate.

When people understand the rules, said Crabtree, there is 100 percent compliance with them.

Were always looking for outside expertise and suggestions, Crabtree told the group.

Watershed monitor Cindy Myers asked if anyone was working on the sources of pollution above the port.

We need a joint partnership with the state and county, said Crabtree.

Were not the source, he said. Theres a lot of oil on (U.S. Highway) 101. With the first rain, it comes down. We need to address the point of the pollution. We need to start where it starts.

Watershed council member Dick Laskey asked Crabtree if he could use the groups help in monitoring the estuary.

Great, said Crabtree. We need the council participating with us.