News: Good news for Oregon's small ports
Story by Michelle Helms
PORTLAND, Ore. - Things didn’t look good a year ago. Federal money to dredge Oregon’s small ports wasn’t available and the communities were searching for ways to get the job done. These days, the outlook is brighter.
On Sept. 17, 2013, Portland District Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Glenn Pratt, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and Oregon Sen. Jeff Kruse signed a Declaration of Cooperation, publicly committing to work together to maintain safe, reliable navigation channels along Oregon’s coast.
The ceremony marked the culmination of nearly a year of collaboration and cooperation, leading to a historic Memorandum of Agreement between the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that allows the Corps to accept state money to continue its mission to maintain Oregon’s coastal navigation channels, ensuring reliable and safe transportation routes for Oregon’s fishermen as well as for other commercial and recreational mariners.
Portland District Commander Col. John Eisenhauer, in October 2012, personally delivered a painful message to the people of Port Orford, Ore.: the District did not have the funds to dredge their channel.
At the time, Col. Eisenhauer said, “It is difficult to have to deliver this kind of news. Pragmatically, it’s better for the community to know what’s happening in order to make informed decisions about their future.”
No one expected the news to be well-received. It wasn’t, but it did spark an important conversation. Even as people expressed their fear and frustration, they began thinking of other ways to accomplish the necessary channel maintenance for their harbor.
Soon after the meeting in Port Orford, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio invited Eisenhauer to join him and others in Brookings, Ore., to brainstorm possible solutions for a situation facing not only Port Orford, but other small ports and harbors on the Oregon coast, and even across the nation.
Eisenhauer once again delivered the Corps’ message: we stand ready to support Oregon’s coastal ports to the best of our ability.
“Faced with a major budget shortfall, a lot of individuals and organizations stepped up to move this exceptional effort forward quickly, with the Corps, Regional Solutions, the Coastal Caucus, and Congressman DeFazio all providing critical leadership,” said Kitzhaber. “This kind of diverse collaboration is the most effective way to build a stronger economy for the entire state and a great example of how we get things done in Oregon.”
Kruse, the Coastal Caucus Chair, also praised the effort. "This historic agreement – only the second of its type in the nation – demonstrates the positive results that come from working together.”
The governor’s office said ports and small coastal waterways are among Oregon’s most valuable assets. The Corps of Engineers has maintained Oregon’s navigation channels for decades; in some cases, for more than a century. The agency understands that reliable navigation channels are vital to coastal ports, their communities and to the region.
The Corps remains committed to its relationships with Oregon’s coastal port communities, and is resolute in its efforts to accomplish its mission to maintain safe, navigable waterways within the boundaries of the agency’s congressional authorities and appropriations.
“These are challenging fiscal times for the nation,” said Eisenhauer. “Coming together, communicating openly and directly to find a collaborative solution to dredge Oregon’s coastal harbors is, for me, an example of a true partnership.”