The small fishing town of Port Orford, located on the rugged and scenic south coast of Oregon, is in danger of losing access to the sea, and a way of life that has been around for generations. Over half of our local economy is dependent on a 40-vessel commercial fishing fleet. Without our local fishing businesses, there is no future for Port Orford.
Our harbor is exposed to the Pacific storms that bring large surf to our coast. Our boats are kept on a dry dock and a crane is used to lift them in and out of the water. This means that the dockside channel must be maintained in order for boats to be launched from and returned to the dock.
The Army Corp of Engineers has a mission to “maintain safe and reliable channels, harbors and waterways for the transportation of commerce, support to national security and recreation.” – Army Corp of Engineers website, 2012.
The Army Corps of Engineers built a breakwater in 1969 to help protect our dock from strong Pacific storms. But building the breakwater had the unintended consequence of causing our harbor to fill with sand. In 1970, the Corps received an emergency authorization to dredge the excess sand from our harbor to provide safe boat navigation.
Since that time, the Army Corp of Engineers has returned each year to maintain the navigation channel and keep Port Orford fishing. The last time the Corps dredged the harbor was in 2010. The harbor was not dredged in 2011, and there are no plans for it to be dredged this year, or next.
The Port Orford harbor is now full of sand (see above photo), and provides very limited access to the sea. The problem has rapidly gotten worse, and it is only possible to launch and return during high tides. The need to go fishing leaves us with no choice but to go to sea during unsafe conditions at the dock. Even moderate swells create extremely hazardous conditions during this already tricky procedure.
Our town is facing an economic catastrophe. If we can’t launch our fishing boats, we can’t make a living. Our businesses are already suffering. Soon, fishermen will be forced to leave to fish elsewhere in order to stay in business.
We need to bring our problem to the attention of the Army Corp of Engineers, and our US Senators and Congressman so that we can get our harbor dredged this summer and keep our fishing tradition alive.
Please join us to keep the Port in Port Orford - save our way of life and our town!