PORT ORFORD, Ore. — The day’s catch was hoisted up for one Port Orford fisherman, who beat the high tide rush that has become the norm at the port of Port Orford. The port hasn’t received its needed annual dredging since federal funding stopped in 2010, leaving high tide the only time the dozens of fishermen can come and go.
“It’s pretty stressful when you’re coming in and you’ve got no water in here and you’re sitting the boat on the sand just trying to get to the dock,” said commercial fisherman Phillip Russum.
A water break was built in the late 60’s, but an unintended side effect is how the sand becomes trapped and builds up with each tide. Annual dredging is needed, but since it has built up for more than three years, Phillip Russum said lack of dredging can easily damage boats.
“We’ve got a lot of days where you bump into the sand and layover and wait for it to come up enough to work your way either to the dock or back away,” said Russum.
In addition to potential of damage to boats or injuries to crews, the window of opportunity for boats to be lowered into the water has narrowed leaving Russum and others to wait, costing them valuable time during crab season.
“Every hour adds up, by the end of it, multiple pulls through your gear in the amount of time we could be out there fishing,” said Russum.
Port manager Gary Anderson knows the fishermen and local economy has been impacted.
“At one point a few years back when we didn’t receive dredging, is estimated about a thirty percent reduction in productivity for the fishing fleet.” said Anderson.
Now, the state has stepped up to pay for dredging this year. Russum has already seen a difference and Anderson is grateful the funding includes permanent equipment for the harbor to use in the coming years.
“A lot of gratitude goes to the governor’s office and the coastal caucus for recognizing the value of the ports to the Oregon economy,” said Anderson.
The training going on during this dredging, as well as the funding for future equipment will ensure boats will be coming and going for years to come.