During the federal government shutdown in October of 2013, the sediment buildup in the Port of Astoria was three feet short of being a serious problem. If not for Jeff Merkley, the port might have needed to apply draft restrictions eliminating the Port’s ability to accommodate bulk carriers, resulting in millions of dollars in lost commerce.
Astoria is accustomed to dredging its port–sediment buildup accrues quickly there–but the shutdown had stalled the dredge permit in 2013, so the Port’s Executive Director, Mike Weston, sought help from Jeff. The senator’s staff that was not furloughed at the time contacted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) pleading the port’s case. With Jeff’s support, NOAA was able to designate some resources to complete their review, bringing the port closer to earning the legal authority it needed to dredge.
In December, with other permits secured, the port still needed authority from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the emergency dredging. Again, Mr. Weston enlisted the help of Jeff’s office. After three days and some phone calls, the port finally received the final permits necessary to dredge.
With the crisis averted, the port remained fully open to serve as an economic hub of the community.