The Army Corps of Engineers will allocate up to $6.5 million to address Port Orford’s needed repairs to its port’s failed breakwater, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio said Tuesday afternoon.
DeFazio submitted a letter in February to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting the agency include money in its operational and maintenance work plan to address the overdue work.
He learned in June the money was not included in the work plan and had instead been diverted to fund disaster assistance elsewhere. But on July 7, he learned Congress approved additional disaster assistance funds available in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, thus freeing up money for the Corps to put the project back on track.
“This is excellent news for Port Orford,” said DeFazio. “This community relies on the port as its economic engine, and fixing the breakwater is essential to its success. For too long, Port Orford has been overlooked by the Corps.”
He said the breakwater system needs serious repairs after years of storms battering it, and without annual dredging of the port, shoaling continues to create an extremely dangerous situation.
DeFazio’s letter pointed out the most recent data shows the small, coastal community hauled in 1.36 million pounds of commercial fish and shellfish valued at $3.4 million in 2014, ranking it as the 120th major U.S. port by value landed.
“While the port relies primarily on its commercial fishing fleet, it is also host to a marine research industry and range of recreational boating activities,” DeFazio wrote.
He also outlined the history of the port prior to the construction of the breakwater in 1968, when it was a deep-water facility that could accommodate lumber carriers up to 400 feet in length.
“One year after the breakwater was built, the harbor became shoaled, necessitating emergency congressional authorization for the first dredging of the harbor,” DeFazio said. “Since that time, shoaling has been the biggest obstacle for the port due to the unique nature of the crane-operated boat launch, and vulnerability to shoaling at this critical dockside location in the harbor.”
In 2014, Port Orford was again struck by a major storm, with 100 mph winds and 40-foot waves. Large boulders from the breakwater wall rolled across the cement dry dock; the breakwater was hit so hard, DeFazio said, the midsection is completely breached and unravelling.
“Storm damage, coupled with the fact that the channel and harbor lack annual dredging by the Corps, has created significant obstacles for the fishing community,” he wrote. “Without annual dredging, shoals now prevent boats from accessing the ocean and launching except at high tide. This shoaling has also increased wave impact along the dock wall, making launch and retrieval extremely dangerous.”