Merkley, Wyden Push Leads to Big Support for Dredging, Jetties

WASHINGTON – Today, Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has heeded their call to fund dredging operations at Oregon’s ports. As a result, Oregon’s ports will receive $19 million more in assistance – $4.2 million of it to six small ports that would have otherwise received $0 in federal funding. 

The new funding includes nearly $12.5 million in additional funds for dredging and jetty reconstruction on the Columbia River. 

“Ports are the lifeblood of our coastal economy, and working ports mean working Oregonians,” said Merkley. “Our smaller ports will gain much-needed essential maintenance and improvements, and the start of repairs to jetties at the mouth of the Columbia River is extraordinarily important to our entire state economy. Projects like these create good jobs immediately and help ensure that the many jobs that depend on our ports will be there long into the future.”

“Oregon’s small ports are the economic engines of the coast,” said Wyden. “That’s why it was unacceptable to me and other members of the Oregon delegation that so many of them were zeroed out for the federal funding. This money is vital to safely maintain the harbors, channels, jetties or other infrastructure. Failure to address these needs would have been a huge blow to economic development and job growth up and down the coast. I thank the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for recognizing so quickly the need to invest in Oregon’s ports and support the coastal communities that rely on them.”

Senators Wyden and Merkley had praised the inclusion of $40 million in small port funding in January’s 2014 appropriations bill, a provision that Senator Merkley fought for as a new member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. They then followed up in a February letter to the Army Corps pushing for a portion of those new funds to ensure dredging at Oregon’s coastal ports. 

Many of Oregon’s coastal communities have economies that revolve around their port. Continued operations at ports depends on regular maintenance dredging, but dredging has long been underfunded at Oregon’s small ports. 

The six ports that would have received $0 in federal funding will now receive the following amounts under the Army Corps’ 2014 Work Plan: 

Coquille (Bandon) – $413,000

Depoe Bay – $380,000

Port Orford – $1,262,000

Rogue River (Gold Beach) – $638,000

Tillamook Bay and Bar (Garibaldi) – $659,000

Umpqua (Reedsport/Salmon Harbor) – $861,000 

Additionally, two small parts that had only received small sums will now get significant support for their dredging operations. Chetco (Brookings) had received $21,000 and will now get an additional $696,000, while Siuslaw had received $32,000 and will now get an additional $698,000.