PORT ORFORD — Federal officials have told a small Oregon port that it won’t be dredged anytime soon, so fishermen are planning to make their own channel through sand that’s now deep enough to keep them from coming in or going out except at high tide.
The plan is to tie up their boats in a line and run their propellers as the tide recedes, in hopes that it will clear a channel for crab season later in the year.
It’s called a “prop wash,” the World newspaper at Coos Bay reported.
“It’s been done in the past, but never to this extent,” said Port Manager Gary Anderson.
“It should create a channel for them. Hopefully, it will last a while.”
The $5 million worth of fish that Port Orford lands annually is a mainstay of the local economy, but the port’s relatively small size and distinct features work to its disadvantage.
The port on Oregon’s southern cost sits directly on the ocean, not upstream on a river like others in Oregon. So, it’s more vulnerable to ocean storms.
A jetty the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built in 1969 to provide storm protection traps sand, though. Without regular dredging, the port will continue to fill.
In the long term, Anderson said, putting a hole in the jetty might allow enough sand to escape that dredging wouldn’t be needed.
But, he said, ‘There needs to be some modeling on that concept.” And if that doesn’t work, the port will head back to the drawing board.
Members of Congress used to use earmarks to get money for projects such as dredging Oregon’s smaller ports, said U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. But in 2010 such specific appropriations to a member’s district were banished.
The Corps of Engineers currently uses a rating system that accounts for how much money a port earns in annual exports to determine which ones get dredged. DeFazio said Coos Bay to the north is just busy enough to warrant dredging.
“We don’t compete well at the national level,” Anderson said.