Anticipated 2004 dredging of Nahcotta mooring basin to save up to 165 area jobs

<I>KEVIN HEIMBIGNER photo</I><BR>Oyster workers make the Port of Peninsula a hectic place, but that activity has been threatened by the deteriorating depth of the Nahcotta mooring basin.

NAHCOTTA - Approximately 111,000 cubic yards of sediment need to be removed from the Nahcotta mooring basin, and up to 165 area jobs are dependent upon the project's success.

Port of Peninsula Manager Howard Teague is in the late stages of slicing through a wave of governmental red tape in order to get the dredging underway by July 2004.

"We have spent about $4,000 on permits already with another $9,000 to go to the Columbia River Estuary Study Team in the near future to get soil samples in the basin," Teague said.

This paperwork is all necessary to dredge the 40-acre mooring basin to the minus 10-foot depth it originally was in 1959.

"The basin fills gradually with silt and sand that move with the tide and the current," Teague explained. "We put in a pocket beach in front of the boat ramp to help scour out the area naturally, but that is not enough to fix the entire basin." In 1988 and 1989 a similar dredging project was completed, removing 33,000 cubic yards of material from the area just south of the Nahcotta dock.

Teague said, "One oyster dredge has already run aground in the basin during low tide. We got the crew off with our skiff and they went to town to eat dinner. After they returned the tide had come in enough that they were able to proceed without any further problems."

The depth at mean low water in that area is still at seven to eight feet, however the port plans to expand the present dock to the north, where the depth is around six feet. "We plan on adding more slips and using new dock technology to help alleviate damaging wave action during storms," Teague explained.

The area near the property line between Morehead Park and the mooring basin is only two feet deep in many places and will require the most material to be dredged. "Eventually we hope the new docks will provide a place where people can do recreational crabbing and fishing."

The material taken from the basin will be pipelined to port property on the west side of Sandridge Road and will be deposited in a way to maintain wetlands and have little, if any, negative ecological impact on the area, according to Teague.

The Nahcotta mooring basin is one of five docks in Pacific County, the others being in Ilwaco, Chinook, Tokeland and Willapa Harbor. Nahcotta is primarily a working port, with the oyster business its biggest user. "We derive some income from the lift, boat ramp, and pleasure craft moorings at Nahcotta, but commercial users make up most of what money we bring in," Teague said.

"We are expecting bids of around $3.60 per cubic yard, which will make the project cost approximately $450,000 when other expenses are added," Teague estimated. Nehalem River Dredge Company did the last project 15 years ago. "We should dredge every 12 years, but it seems we can only afford to do it every 15 years."

The port's present income will pay for a third of the project and grants from Washington state will cover another third. "In 1988 Commissioner Clyde Sayce negotiated an interest free loan for the dredging and we are optimistic the port can do the same this time to cover the final third of costs," Teague explained.

"When you start talking about losing 165 jobs in a county that ranks 38th out of 39 counties economically, the state listens," he said. The project is slated to begin the second half of 2004 with the area immediately north of the present dock to be dredged first, with the entire operation slated to be completed in 2006, at the latest.

Permits from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other resource agency project applications are all required before bids can be accepted and the project begun. "I have to bird dog each county, state, and federal agency, but the process is moving forward," Teague concluded.

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