The dredge Yaquina has yet to perform maintenance dredging on the Coquille River bar. The Yaquina had orders to start mid-July. Excessive north wind and ocean swell were not conducive to getting the work done at that time. There have been opportunities since then, particularly the week of Aug. 10, as she was scheduled to be here again but instead was directed to go to theColumbia River. That window has now been missed and we’ve been told the dredge is now scheduled for the end of August.
We hear and understand your frustration and disappointment about the bar, it is particularly dangerous and unpredictable this year. We realize many of you have traveled from Roseburg, Medford and parts beyond to launch from Bandon for halibut, tuna and are not able to get out when the ocean is flat because the bar is in such bad shape. A 3-foot swell makes for a dangerous crossing in this condition. We apologize to the charter boats, guides and hundreds of others who have come here and are met by these unsafe conditions. We are doing everything we can and to be direct, are frustrated and tired of being low on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineerspriority list.
We are funded this year, 2015, for dredging, somewhere around $400k at $85k to $90k a day to operate the Yaquina, but the battle has already begun for 2016 funding. Small ports all along the coast have been zeroed out for 2016 based on the politics of budgeting and the criteria set by the U.S. Army Corps in D.C., who have no understanding of the economic importance dredging brings to all of our coastal communities along the South Coast or the dangers of breaking bars. As budgets get squeezed, services are diminished. The Port of Bandon sends two commissioners to D.C. every year to lobby officials on our behalf. Economic studies have been done that show positive proof. The funding this port receives is a drop in the bucket compared to other ports and the return on the investment has been proven over and over. Tens of millions of dollars are spent on the Columbia and larger ports along the coast. Although we are funded this year, the service provided is unacceptable.
We understand that by expressing our frustration there is the potential to diminish our political capital but frankly enough is enough. We appreciate the ongoing, never-ending work that is provided by Rep. DeFazio, Senator Merkley, the State of Oregon, the Coastal Caucus and all others who continue to lobby for South Coast ports. Without them, we would be done. This letter in no way should reflect on the other South Coast ports or the South Coast Ports Coalition. This is strictly about the Coquille River bar and our disappointment and the disappointment of the hundreds who have contacted us through phone calls and visits.