Not Aloneby Albert Rissman
The Daily Astorian, January 26, 2007
Reading about the Port of Astoria dredging problems in the Jan. 19 edition of The Daily Astorian ("Federal investigators probe Port of Astoria") reminds me of the same problems we had in 1964 trying to keep seven berths open for the many ships using the Port facilities. Present policies are failed policies. Dredging has always been a blister on the heels of progress at the Port.
At one time the cost of dredging almost exceeded the revenue from the piers. Putting dredge spoils in watertight berms or using dump barges and hauling the spoils out to sea is very expensive and does not solve the dredge problem.
Apparently the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality do not object to the present Port method of dredging. Therefore, it must be the toxic river water causing all the problems. If this is the case, there is not a thing the Port can do about this problem.
The solution must take place up river. Time after time, I have stood on the deck of a ship and watched what I call "icebergs" - but what was actually pollution floating down river. Most of this pollution is released after dark. If there was no Port of Astoria, this toxic water would be carried out to sea with no objection from anyone.
Some suggestions I made in 1964 are not much different than solutions that might work today using a small two-man pipeline dredge that would pump dredge spoils into the main river channel.
Most of the shoaling at the Port of Astoria slips is from the mouth of Youngs Bay and other low areas in the Columbia River estuary during flood tide.
A spit about 800 feet long on the west outer end of Pier Three would eliminate one-half to two-thirds of the silting problems.
If the silt is so toxic, why can't the Port get a permit to build the spit and prevent some of the silting problems? This might mean we could get by with dredging once a year instead of twice a year.
It is my personal opinion that any agency whose responsibility ends with the words "permit denied" contributes very little to the solution of the complex problems facing the Port today. I believe the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the DEQ need to change the kind of information they consider when they review permit applications. For example, they should include the sources of river silt and river toxins. If they won't do this, perhaps they should be relieved of the responsibility of issuing dredge permits.
The proper place to have the dredge policy modified is in Washington, D.C., and our Congressional representatives are the proper people to do it. Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and the Port of Astoria should not have to bear sole responsibility for dredging problems created elsewhere.
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