Merkley Monthly: Shoring up investments in Oregon’s ports

Curry Pilot

Oregon’s ports are not only vital for our state—they’re critical to America.

Just think back to the pandemic, when dozens of container ships had to wait to dock off the West Coast and Americans across the country felt the effects. Fertilizer, furniture, electronics, clothing, cars, crops, and timber are just a few of the many goods that move through Oregon’s 23 small and coastal public ports every day to businesses and store shelves around the world. 

Our ports also are home to commercial fishermen, crabbers, and recreational businesses, seafood processors and marina operators, not to mention thousands of workers in local communities. And our ports provide critical infrastructure for disaster response and recovery, so that first responders and emergency supplies can get where they’re needed fast. 

That’s why I’ve worked hard to bring home federal dollars to maintain and upgrade our ports for the next generation—especially our small ports that have too often been overlooked in the past, like the $20 million I secured for workforce development at small shipyards. These investments will help our ports be safer, more efficient, and support more good-paying, local jobs.  

Here are three examples of recent investments by the federal government in Oregon’s ports. In Clatsop County, the Port of Astoria received over $26 million from the federal government for critical repairs to Pier 2 West, which is a major hub for seafood processing and commerce. In Coos County, the Coquille Indian Tribe received $7.7 million to repair and extend docks and install a shore power outlet box to the wharf so folks won’t need to rely on idling diesel engines. And, in Lincoln County, the Port of Newport received $3.8 million to build more laydown and storage space, increase security, and make repairs to docks and pilings at the Newport International Terminal. 

The Port of Garibaldi, in Tillamook County, was awarded $62 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to perform critical repairs on the struggling south jetty, but more is needed to ensure safe passage in and out of the Port. And I just secured an additional $748,000 community-initiated project to allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to continue dredging the federal navigation channel and will keep push for funding to finish repairs on the jetty to ensure its safety and economic security. I also secured $720,000 for another one of these critical projects to continue essential maintenance dredging for the Port of Coos Bay for safer navigation.

To be sure, there is still more to do for our ports. I’ll keep fighting for Coos Bay’s transformative container port project, which would be a game changer for the region and the nation. These kinds of targeted investments in Oregon’s small ports and large shipyards have a huge return on investment for so many parts of our state’s economy.

Thriving ports are essential for good-paying jobs and strong coastal communities, and I’ll continue to fight to keep Oregon’s ports and economy growing strong.