NORTH BEND -- Once the driving force of Oregon's economy, decades of regulation have turned the tree-lined coast into an albatross.
That was the consensus among economists, state lawmakers and county officials from Clatsop to Curry who gathered at The Mill Casino-Hotel for a summit focused solely on Oregon's coastal economy.
Closing the two-day Oregon Coast Economic Summit, Sen. Joanne Verger, D-Coos Bay, told a 200-strong crowd on Friday that regaining control of the coast's forests and waters remained a frustrating battle.
'If you look at those assets, you wonder why in the world we are not absolutely prosperous," Verger said. 'Yet we have to fight every day, every week, every month to have our voice heard about how to build our economy."
Speaking on a local government panel, George Rhodes, a Curry County commissioner, said regulations on federal forestland were starving his county to death.
Shared revenue from harvests on federal forestland have historically sustained Curry and other southwestern counties. This year, its expected only about 20 of 700,000 acres of federal forest will be harvested in Curry. Rhodes said his county now faces the prospect of insolvency, threatening everything from search-and-rescue operations to law enforcement.
'And It could be resolved if we just had an appropriate management plan for our federal forests in the state of Oregon," Rhodes said.
But not all the talk was doom and gloom. In his closing remarks, state Rep Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, said that the overlapping problems also pointed to solutions. For instance, the need for better road infrastructure in the southwest.
'The best transportation to the coast is way up north," Roblan said. 'And if you look way down to Curry County -- how do you get there? They have known that for a long time."
Speaking after the event, Roblan said another major benefit for for the coast's top officials to network.
'People were telling me, 'it would have taken me a week to set up a meeting with these three people -- and we just did it now,'" Roblan said.
Roblan, who spearheaded of the summit, said it was likely another would be held next year. A different coastal city would likely be chosen to host.
Reporter Daniel Simmons-Ritchie can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 249, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.