PORT ORFORD — The Port of Port Orford's bay is slowly filling up with sand, but it won't be dredged any time soon.
'The message we got was we won't be dredged for the foreseeable future," said Port Manager Gary Anderson.
Currently, enough sand has built up in the port that boats can move in and out of the bay only at high tide.
The port and its users are searching for alternative fixes before the bay becomes unusable.
'They're a resourceful lot," Anderson said.
In the short term, the fishermen plan a collective 'prop wash," which Anderson hopes will keep the port open during crab season.
A prop wash involves tying up boats to the dock in a line, then running the boats' propellers as the tide recedes.
'It's been done in the past, but never to this extent," Anderson said. 'It should create a channel for them. Hopefully, it will last a while."
Without regular maintenance dredging, the port will continue to fill with sand trapped by a manmade jetty built in 1969 to protect the port from ocean storms.
Because the port is not built on a river, it needed the jetty for protection from the ocean's power, Anderson said. Port Orford was naturally a deep water port before the Army Corps of Engineers built the jetty.
In the long term, Anderson said putting a hole in the jetty possibly would allow enough sand to escape the bay that dredging wouldn't be needed.
'There needs to be some modeling on that concept," he said. And if that doesn't work, the port will head back to the drawing board.
Port Orford's problems began in 2010 when congressional delegations were banned from giving federal earmarks for projects in their districts.
Prior to the ban, congressmen earmarked dredging on Oregon's smaller ports, said Rep. Peter DeFazio.
The Army Corps of Engineers currently uses a rating system that accounts for how much money a port earns in annual exports to determine which Oregon ports are dredged every year. Coos Bay exports just enough material to be dredged, DeFazio said.
'We don't compete well at the national level," Anderson said, but the $5 million worth of fish Port Orford lands annually sustains the local economy.
Reporter Jessie Higgins can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or firstname.lastname@example.org.