A bar pilot gets to see the world through a unique lens. Each trip to usher an oceangoing vessel in or out of the harbor offers a fresh perspective on the ocean’s power and volatility as well as land’s calm and stability.
To pursue this specialized profession, we train for years as deckhands and apprentices. And we accept risks. While many of our trips are routine, each time across the bar we’re mindful that the ocean’s power is not something controlled, simply understood, always testing our ability to navigate the ships that are the legacy of our harbor and community. This is a risk we prepare for – for years, and a challenge we know we can handle, and is important to our economy.
The decision Coos Bay and surrounding areas face on the Jordon Cove LNG terminal and pipeline offers similar risks and rewards. Just as good pilots prepare for the times the sea plays rough, Jordan Cove has diligently planned, engineered and designed its facilities to protect its substantial investment and the community from extreme events. In exchange for these highly manageable risks, our community would see our long-declining waterfront economy bloom, revive our legacy as a global port, sustain our schools and services we count on, and create opportunity for future generations.
The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay once was the largest timber exporting port in the world. Today, maritime commerce is a fraction of that, and a fraction of its potential. Likewise, our economy is operating far below its capability and need; population continues to decline, transfer payments continue to increase, our kids leave because there’s little opportunity for them here. Jordan Cove’s investment and jobs would inject life into the port and the South Coast economy through new infrastructure, facility operations, increased ship traffic, and the kind of spending at local businesses that happens when people have living-wage jobs.
Direct investment by one business is one thing, providing a catalyst for even more commerce is another. In maritime trade there’s a saying: “Ship calls attract more ship calls.” A more modern port and facility would help make us what the port was 100 years ago, the backbone of our economy. Just from the pilots’ perspective, huge infrastructure improvements from Jordan Cove would include four new state-of-the-art tractor tugs with firefighting capabilities; emergency towing and rescue capability, and addition of a private vessel traffic information system – all of which benefit the entire harbor and community, and will help attract vessels to other terminals as well. And increased shipping tonnage is the driver to ensure continued federal funding for maintaining the channel and a safe ocean bar. Increases in ships and cargo would help preserve a safer harbor for all users – bar pilots, ship’s captains and crews, commercial fishermen and recreational boaters.
Once Jordan Cove is operational, the terminal would attract about 110 new vessel calls every year – more than a 300 percent increase from current levels but still fewer than just twenty years ago. Economic analysis conducted for the port shows each ship call produces about $603,000 in local economic activity and about $1.3 million in indirect benefit. Jordan Cove ships would mean another $150 million in annual economic impact.
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Others can describe the broader region-wide economic benefits of other aspects of Jordan Cove better than we can. We will leave the details to economists and economic developers. But you don’t need a PhD in math to understand that Jordan Cove’s 215 permanent high-paying jobs would make a big difference in our area. Compared to our local population, that’s like 9,000 or more jobs in the Portland area. And it’s estimated that Jordan Cove will require up to 6,000 workers between Klamath County and here during construction, bringing a wave of cash and spending to our community – for everything from fabrication to pharmacies, dry cleaners to delis, basically anything anyone buys in their everyday life. Plus, think of the hundreds of ship crews, “tourists” spending money after being at sea.
What we do understand is what it’s like to work on the water and live in a place that water, the sea, and a working harbor made possible. And to proudly represent the maritime shipping profession that built it.
Coos Bay and the harbor are an integral part of our lives and the defining part of our community’s history. The harbor is underused right now, and now that is defining us. The Jordan Cove Project is an investment that builds on the one thing that makes our community different: a deep-water seaport; it’s our one distinction and advantage over every other community in Oregon – and any other coastal town from San Francisco to Seattle.
The Jordan Cove Project will make responsible, balanced use of both the land and sea—but also goes one better. It will supply fuel (natural gas) that significantly cuts greenhouse gas emissions from trading partners in Asia that our community has worked with for a century.
We urge everyone in the community who understands that – as a community -- we can do better, be better, live better and offer our children and grandchildren better, to join us in making the Jordan Cove investment possible.