ILWACO — The Ports of Ilwaco and Chinook reported both good news and bad last week, as Congress acted to ensure permanent funding to maintain dredged access channels to small U.S. ports, and as the Port of Chinook’s dredge sank.
The dredge was being moved between the ports last week by Coastal Towing when it floundered in rough water.
“The salvage process is underway subject to weather conditions,” Guy Glenn Jr., Ilwaco port manager, said Tuesday. Glenn also oversees the Port of Chinook under a joint operating agreement.
Ballard Marine, a regional salvage contractor, has been engaged by the ports’ insurance company to deal with the situation.
“Fuel on board the dredge has been successfully pumped out without any known pollution,” Glenn said. “We plan to access the condition of the dredge after it is hauled out. At this point, we are doubtful it will return to operation.”
Moving forward, the ports “are looking into all options in order to perform dredging in the Chinook marina this season,” Glenn said. “Per our permit, we are only allowed to dredge from Nov. 1 until Feb. 28. We are in the final stages of receiving our dredging permit and had not planned to start dredging in Chinook until early January.”
Marking a major victory for small ports in Pacific County and elsewhere in the nation, last week Congress solidified a funding stream that will pay for keeping the ports and the economies they support viable long into the future.
“Our congressional delegation understands the importance of small coastal fishing ports, like Ilwaco and Chinook,” said Glenn, who was personally informed of the congressional vote by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray on Monday. “They continue to support our efforts on channel maintenance projects” in the 2016 Water Resources Development Act, he said. As a result, 10 percent of the federal Harbor Maintenance Tax will be permanently set aside for small ports.
Ports will still have to compete for funding authorization each year from this new pot of money.
“The process of working with the Corps of Engineers and our congressional delegation will remain the same,” Glenn said. “Advocating for our projects and funding will continue to be a challenge as we compete with our projects around the nation. We are thankful for our cooperative working relationship with the Corps of Engineers, our congressional delegation and other partners.”
The entrance channels to Ilwaco and Chinook serve both commercial and recreational users from the Pacific Northwest and the entire West Coast. Businesses located in Ilwaco and Chinook rely on the channels and play a large role in the economy of Pacific County, one of the most fishing-intensive economies in the nation. The Ilwaco channel also supports Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment and the essential services they provide in our region. Both the Port of Ilwaco and the Port of Chinook are considered “Harbors of Safe Refuge,” with Ilwaco having the only public boatyard on the Pacific coast of Washington state.