Just months after he successfully got money in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund released, Congressman Peter DeFazio toured the Coos Bay North Jetty to get a close look at what the funding will do.
DeFazio visited Coos Bay on Thursday and members of the Coos Bay Coast Guard station took DeFazio out to the jetty, which has lost more than 900 feet of rocks to erosion since it was built in 1899.
The congressman listened as local experts explained what work needed to be done to repair the jetty, which is used to keep boats coming into and out of the Port of Coos Bay safe.
Mike Dunning, who works for the Port of Coos Bay, said the $35 million repair will add between 130 and 170 feet to the jetty and will stabilize the structure so it will protect the port and boaters for decades to come.
The work will be done in two phases. Phase one will increase the length of the head of the jetty while also stabilizing it to prevent future erosion. Dunning explained as waves pound into the rocks on the jetty year after year, it slowly erodes the rocks and weakens the jetty.
"It continues to break apart," Dunning said. "They will come in and re-armor it. They'll put big rocks to re-armor it. We're losing 15 to 20 feet a year."
The second phase of the project will be on the root or the backside of the jetty, which is mostly gone due to erosion over the years. That work will protect the beaches in the area while also keeping boaters safe.
"It just helps reduce some of the impact of the current and waves," Dunning said.
Dunning said with the funding freed up, the Corps of Engineers is taking bids on the work. He expects a bid to be chosen in the coming months with repairs beginning in the spring.
DeFazio has been working on getting the funding for close to 25 years. During that time, the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund was collecting money that sat unspent in the U.S. Treasury.
Last year, DeFazio received bipartisan support on a bill to release the funding, which had grown to $10 billion, in the House. The House voted unanimously to approve the bill, but the Senate, then controlled by Republicans, refused to take it up.
"Every Republican in my committee, every Republican in the House voted for it," DeFazio said. "We've been collecting the money since the Reagan era. The Corps has a backlog of projects, but they didn't have the money."
When the Senate refused to act, DeFazio looked for another way to get the funding released. After negotiating with Senate Republicans, he was able to get a bill approved in the budget cycle that allowed the $10 billion to be spent over 10 years.
One of the largest projects in year one is fixing the jetty in Coos Bay.
"We're losing a lot of the jetty every year," DeFazio said. "That entry becomes more and more dangerous. These things deteriorate at an accumulating rate. I got this one on the list with the Corps a few years ago, and they kept saying, 'I don't have the money.' Well, now they have the money."
In addition to the repairs on the North Jetty in Coos Bay, DeFazio also got funding for a wastewater plant at the port in Brookings. The plant will enable Pacific Seafood, one of the top employers in the region, to keep its Brookings plant open.
"They'll have to close on January 1 if they don't have a plan for a wastewater plant," DeFazio said. "For that community, it's a huge deal. They'll lose their fleet and their processor if they don't get it."
DeFazio secured $3.5 million to fund the construction of the new wastewater treatment plant owned and operated by the Port of Brookings.
Getting the wastewater plant will save jobs and the fishing fleet, which supports 70 families, DaFazio said.
“Pacific Seafood is proud to be a part of the Brookings community and proud to partner with the local fishing fleet to produce locally-sourced, sustainably harvested seafood,” said Tony Dal Ponte, director of government affairs for Pacific Seafood. “Working waterfronts require infrastructure, and we thank Congressman DeFazio for his leadership in directing federal dollars to the Port for this new project. We look forward to continuing to work with him in the coming months to secure this funding and support continued economic development here in Brookings.”