GRANTS PASS — An agreement between the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will keep shipping channels open at small ports on the Oregon Coast after federal funding for dredging dried up.
Corps of Engineers spokeswoman Michelle Helms said the agreement calls for Oregon to provide up to $5 million a year for the next four years for a Corps dredge to handle the work.
Silt flowing down rivers fills in the shipping channels at small ports unless they are dredged.
Dredging had been paid by budget appropriations known as earmarks, which members of Congress can add to benefit their home states. But those were eliminated by Republicans controlling the U.S. House as a way to reduce the federal budget.
"Faced with a major budget shortfall, a lot of individuals and organizations stepped up to move this exceptional effort forward quickly, with the Corps, Regional Solutions, the Coastal Caucus, and Congressman (Peter) DeFazio all providing critical leadership," Gov. John Kitzhaber said in a statement.
The dredge Yaquina is to start soon at the Port of Siuslaw in Florence, followed by the Port of Umpqua in Reedsport and Port Orford.
The corps dredge will work on federal shipping channels, but it's too big to work around marinas, said Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg. A truck-mounted portable dredge will be bought with lottery bonds to do that work.
A 2013 report on the Port of Bandon concluded that 54 businesses employing 441 people depended on keeping shipping channels open.
The small port added $27 million to the regional economy and paid $8 million in taxes, the governor's office said.