Users of Coos Bay got some welcome news about an important piece of infrastructure Thursday.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that its work plans for 2021 include a big boost for the area: $34.65 million designated for repairing the north jetty at the mouth of the bay.
“This work will be critical in ensuring the safety of mariners transiting in and out of the Coos Bay harbor,” the Port of Coos Bay wrote in an announcement about the planned funding.
The jetty was originally constructed in 1929, according to the port. Since then, it’s been losing its length and stability as waves erode the structure.
In all, the port says the jetty has receded some 900 feet since it was originally constructed. Bringing it back to that length can help improve navigation and access, according to Caitlin Sause of Sause Brothers, which operates tugs and shipping services in Coos Bay.
"The jetties help to minimize navigation channel maintenance and dredging needs while allowing for a safer transit for mariners calling on Coos Bay," Sause wrote in an email. "There have been times where we cannot cross the bar due to poor weather conditions and these investments will make it safer for mariners to continue to serve an essential role in the transit of goods along the west coast."
The Corps of Engineers work will add between 120 and 150 feet of jetty back to the end, and will improve the stability of the head of the jetty, as well as add rock to the jetty’s trunk and root.
That work will be a win for the region’s maritime businesses.
“It’s extremely important to the quality of our seaport,” said Timm Slater, the executive director of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. “This is an important step to restoring and securing its future.”
While some repairs have taken place over the years, Slater said there hasn’t been an investment of this size in some time.
According to Sause, the maintenance is important for keeping ships moving.
"Dredging remains one of the most critical investments that can be made to keep commerce moving along our coastlines," she wrote. "We are thankful for our local and federal partners in recognizing the need to make such investments."
Many credit the federal government’s support for the project to Rep. Peter Defazio, who represents the area in Congress.
“Representative DeFazio led this charge and played a critical role in working with the Corps to include the North Jetty repair in this year’s workplan under the Major Maintenance and Repair program,” port officials wrote. “The efforts of Representative DeFazio and his office will greatly enhance the safety and long-term viability of the Port community.”
DeFazio, who holds sway as the chair of the House committee on infrastructure, said the work will help the bay keep operations and business on track.
“Oregon’s ports and harbors are the lifeblood of the communities they serve, and we must ensure that our coastal communities have the funding to properly maintain them,” said Rep. DeFazio. “For too long, the crumbling North Jetty has impeded operations at the Port of Coos Bay. Maintenance dredging and jetty repairs are needed to ensure the port can serve its most critical purpose as an economic engine for Coos Bay and surrounding communities and a harbor of refuge for mariners of both commercial and recreational vessels. I’m grateful the Army Corps included this essential funding in their workplan.”
Funding for the north jetty is in addition to the agency’s operations and maintenance budget, which includes about $7.5 million for general maintenance activities and dredging.
In late 2020, DeFazio, Oregon’s two U.S. Senators and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader and Suzanne Bonamici sent the Corps of Engineers a letter asking for additional support for harbor repairs and improvements at Coos Bay, Depoe Bay and Tillamook.
“Our harbors along the Oregon coast can be particularly challenging due to unpredictable weather, the increasing intensity of storms, and especially dangerous wave conditions at our entrance channels,” the group wrote. “Maintenance dredging and jetty repairs are needed to ensure our ports can serve their most critical purposes as economic engines for coastal communities and harbors of refuge for mariners of both commercial and recreational vessels.”