Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

Oregon Fishing Ports Support Communities, Economy

Port of Toledo installing largest mobile haul-out lift on Oregon coast


Conceptual drawings show the planned set-up of the Port of Newport's International Terminal shipping facility. The $6.5 million project follows in the wake of the $30 million rejuvenation of the International Terminal, completed in 2015. Artwork courtesy of the Port of Newport.

Commercial fishing fortunes ebb and flow more dramatically than the ocean tides and currents, but overall the industry remains a viable piece of Oregon's coastal and state economy.

The 15 ports perched at varying intervals along the state's 362-mile coastline – along with supporting ports along rivers at strategic inland sites – provide fishermen with vital marine services, a place to sell their catches and call home, and safe havens when the ocean gets rough.

Commercial fisheries and working waterfronts are essential sources of jobs and economic growth, say officials at the Pacific Northwest Waterways Association (PNWA), the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association (OCZMA), and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW).

"The international trade, recreational boating, and commercial fishing taking place out of these facilities are more important to the economic health of coastal communities now more than ever before," notes a 2015 PNWA study.

A 2014 state economic study showed that Oregon's coastal ports contribute 15,759 direct and indirect jobs and $904 million to the state's gross domestic product. NOAA's 2014 fisheries report ranked Oregon sixth in the nation in overall fish landings, with 291 million pounds valued at $157.7 million. Newport topped all Pacific Coast ports and finished 11th nationally, landing 124 million pounds valued at $53 million, followed closely by Astoria with 122 million pounds valued at $43 million.

All Oregon ports – from larger harbors (Coos Bay, Newport, Astoria) with international shipping and regional-scale fishing fleets to smaller, shallow-draft sites with limited capabilities – are integral to their communities' lifestyles and economies. In some towns, commercial fisheries provide 25 percent or more of total annual earned income. The seafood industry also supports associated fish processing plants, mechanics, welders, refrigeration specialists, machine shops, marine electronics sales and service firms, professional services (attorneys and accountants) and marine suppliers – mostly clustered adjacent to the waterfronts.

Enhancing Economic Prosperity

Newport, one of Oregon's three deep draft coastal ports (along with Astoria and Coos Bay), is a prime example of what ports can do in socioeconomic terms, not only for their commercial fishing fleets, but their communities, state and region.

Newport's harbor serves as home to about 240 commercial fishing vessels, supporting 2,000 direct port-related jobs. Fishermen's landings reach an average of 130 million pounds per year valued at $231 million in gross sales and $55 million in to-the-vessel income. Newport is also a major center of oceanographic research with Hatfield Marine Science Center and related facilities operated by Oregon State University and state and federal agencies, including NOAA. Port officials lobbied for and earned the nod to build NOAA's Pacific Marine Operations Center in 2011, investing $40 million in the project.

In August 2013, port officials completed a $30 million renovation of the port's international terminal, and are now aiming to expand it by adding a $6.5 million, nine-acre shipping facility.

Port officials say they would lease the facility to focus on agricultural exports and near-shore barging of agricultural products from the mid-Willamette Valley, as well as waste paper material from southern California. The port received a $2 million grant for the project from the US Department of Transportation in October 2015.

"With the loss of container and break-bulk shipping at the Port of Portland, businesses and manufacturing industries are seeking alternative transportation options to trucking products up and down the West Coast," noted US Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon) in a letter of support for the project. "The port, via Highway 20, can provide a less expensive option to trucking that achieves the goal of bringing locally harvested commodities and natural resources to strategically located markets."

Grant Snyder, from Depoe Bay-based Wiggins Tug & Haul, agreed. "The export facility provides an opportunity for local businesses to reduce transportation costs and expand marketing opportunities, while at the same time bringing economic revitalization to the local economy through job creation, additional tax revenue, and infrastructure improvements," he noted.

Others call it the final piece in creating a "true deep water port" on Oregon's central coast

Vital Connection

Newport also has an upriver connection that provides added benefits and a keen focus on the future.

Located seven miles inland along the Yaquina River and adjacent sloughs, the Port of Toledo encompasses 443 square miles of territory, including the cities of Toledo and Siletz. Port Manager Bud Shoemake said the port's key role is economic development for the region, especially for traditional industries like commercial fisheries. Operating since 1910, the port's main focal point is Toledo's waterfront on Depot Slough, offering moorage and marine-related businesses to meet the needs of commercial fishermen.

Shoemake said one of the port's main contributions is Yaquina Boatyard at Sturgeon Bend across the river from Toledo's Georgia-Pacific paper mill.

Fishery managers say boatyards are vital to a viable commercial fishing industry, which generates about 4,000 jobs and accounts for at least 15 percent of earned income in Oregon's central coast communities (Newport, Toledo, Depoe Bay), according to economic analysts. The port's business plan for the boatyard stated that more than half of the economic activity is generated by the distant water fleet, the remainder from the local/regional fleet. Former owner Fred Wahl shut down the operation in 2008. Port of Toledo commissioners took a chance and bought the boatyard for $1.5 million in December 2010 to stave off potential ebbing of the local and regional economy. The port's purchase set the stage for major improvements and offered commercial fishermen and marine science researchers a much-needed place to keep their vessels shipshape.

Location, Location, Location

The rejuvenated boatyard has since forged a reputation as one of Oregon's premier vessel service and repair facilities. Fishermen say they like having the option on the easily navigable, well-marked Yaquina River.

The port's do-it-yourself open yard provides access to a group of preferred independent contractors.

"We are one of the few remaining repair facilities that not only allow, but welcome the do-it-yourself owner," Shoemake said, calling the boatyard a "one-stop shop" for maintenance and vessel preparation, offering a full range of services. "We encourage boat owners to be as involved in the maintenance of their boats as possible."

Oregon Transportation Commission officials say the port and boatyard are also ideally situated at an intersection of river, railroad and highway. They consider the port and its boatyard "essential" to maintaining Oregon's economic competitiveness by keeping fishing and research vessels shipshape and seaworthy, and connections to markets intact and fully functional.

The commission approved a $4.7 million Connect Oregon grant to allow the port to pursue a $6.2 million build-out plan, approved by port commissioners in 2013, that Shoemake said would eventually add 50 jobs to the local economy, 167 jobs statewide, and provide an immense surge forward in the port's resurrection of the boatyard. The project is replacing an aging, failing dry dock with a 620-ton mobile lift, new piers for the lift, a new wash-down pad, expanded hard moorage spaces, and create a cargo transfer area by relocating the boatyard's access road and utilities.

Port officials chose Italian company Ascom to put in the mobile boat lift at a cost of just under $2 million – the largest lift at the lowest price among six offers from four companies. Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin-based Marine Travelift and its West Coast sales agent, Kendrick Equipment, submitted a proposal for a 500-ton lift at almost $2.5 million, and later lodged an unsuccessful legal challenge to the port's contract award to Ascom.

Piers are in place, upland work is well underway, and Shoemake expects the lift to be shipped near the end of April. Project completion is expected by July or August, which "will greatly enhance the boatyard's efficiency," he noted.

Shoemake said the improvements would allow full utilization of boatyard property, expand boatyard services, and create new infrastructure for rail transfer at the boatyard.

"We will be able to handle all of our local fleet, and anything else that can navigate to the boatyard, including king crabbers," he added, noting that work at the yard has continued with minimal interruption during the construction.

The gamble port officials made in purchasing the 20-acre property more than five years ago continues to pay dividends. The timing couldn't be more fortuitous for the fishing fleet.

Port of Toledo officials expect to complete an expansion project at the port's Yaquina Boatyard on the Yaquina River in July or August. Part of the expansion includes adding a 620-ton mobile lift to complement this 88-ton lift currently in use. Photo courtesy of Port of Toledo.

River Bend boatyard, located farther downriver, shut down in October 2015, leaving the Port of Toledo facility as the only remaining haul-out in the area. In fact, Shoemake said lack of haul-outs along the Oregon Coast and the erosion of private boatyards provided the impetus for Port of Toledo officials to pursue the expansion project.

"We're supplying the infrastructure for other businesses to expand," said Shoemake about Toledo's marine industrial cluster, adding that the project will give Toledo the largest capacity lift on the Oregon coast and allow boatyard workers to haul out and work on several boats at one time.

Shoemake calls the expanded boatyard "a game changer for the region and the state."

Overall, Oregon's ports comprise a vital regional network of marine infrastructure, and remain, as fishery and agency officials note, integral parts of their communities. And the Port of Toledo proves how small ports can make large contributions.


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