Three local ports are slated to be dredged by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is allocating nearly $15 million this year toward such projects on Oregon’s South Coast, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio announced Tuesday.

Among those needing assistance, particularly with dredging, are the ports of Brookings Harbor, Gold Beach and Port Orford, all of which are on the list for maintenance.

“Our ports along the Oregon Coast are the lifeblood of coastal communities, and our coastal infrastructure supports communities throughout the state,” DeFazio said. “These investments will boost safety for our recreational and commercial fishing fleet, as well as create and sustain thousands of jobs tied to cargo, recreation, industrial, commercial and other activity at Oregon’s ports.”

In April, DeFazio wrote a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works R.D. James urging the administration to fund navigation needs of Oregon’s small ports, above the president’s budget request to Congress. That request included $9.4 million for Oregon, and an additional $5.6 million was needed to complete the Army Corps’ work plan for this fiscal year.

DeFazio noted the projects are critical to local economies and the safety of those in the fishing industry.

“These small ports are hubs for international trade, recreation and commercial fishing,” he said. “Nearly all of Oregon’s ports are located in rural counties, where port activities provide an important employment base and are often primary drivers of local prosperity.”

A 2014 study showed Oregon’s coastal ports supported 15,759 jobs and contributed $904 million to the state gross domestic product. In addition, NOAA’s 2015 Fisheries of the U.S. report ranked Oregon seventh in the nation for 2015 domestic fish landings, with 195 million pounds valued at $115.7 million.

DeFazio indicated he’s also concerned about the U.S. Coast Guard.

“The build-up of sediment and deterioration of jetties along the Oregon Coast creates a very dangerous situation for commercial ships, recreational boaters and commercial and sport fishermen,” he said. “Lack of funding for these projects not only puts mariners in harm’s way, it impedes the Coast Guard’s ability to carry out search and rescue missions.”

Reach Jane Stebbins at jstebbins@currypilot.com .

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