With the arrival 2019, we want to share with you the accomplishments that have taken place at the Oregon International Port of Coos Bay (Port) in the past year. Throughout 2018, developments in each of the Port’s three business arms; Rail, Maritime and the Charleston Marina have served to further our mission to promote sustainable development that enhances the economy of southwest Oregon and the State.
November 1, 2018 marked the date at which the Port began operating the Coos Bay Rail Line. Assuming this new role as both owner and operator of the Coos Bay Rail Line could not have been possible without months of preparation, coordination and hard work by our staff, Port Commission and community partners. As a result, we welcomed 20 new staff members and together we continue to streamline operations and optimize customer service. Our rail is a key element for local shippers as it increases efficiency while cutting cost of delivering goods nationally and internationally.
The Port brought several multimillion-dollar rail related projects to life in 2018. We kicked off construction work on a comprehensive tunnel rehabilitation project this past spring which will serve to structurally rehabilitate nine tunnels along the Coos Bay Rail Line. Extensive efforts have also been completed to rehabilitate all (38) of the timber bridges along the 134 miles of mainline rail. Repair work has been completed on 31 of these bridges and we anticipate concluding this project in 2019. These rail improvement projects total $27 million and are funded through a combination of State and Federal economic grants and Port matching funds. Infrastructure improvement projects help spur economic activity, support jobs and position the region for future business growth. It stimulates economic impacts through increased local spending and the creation of new employment opportunities.
In December, we were thrilled to receive word from the Oregon Delegation in Washington D.C. that a $20 million award through the Better Utilizing Infrastructure to Leverage Development (BUILD) program for the Coos Bay Rail Line Bridge Rehabilitation project. The Port received significant support for the proposal from our Federal, State, and Local delegations, as well as our public and private partners in the port community. This project will allow for an additional $25 million investment on the Coos Bay Rail Line and we thank our partners that helped to bring this to fruition. A strong transportation network is critical to the function and growth of our economy. Sustained investment in port infrastructure is crucial in ensuring the rail line can continue to provide a cost effective and environmentally sound transportation method for southwestern Oregon businesses today and for many years to come.
As Oregonians, we depend on waterways such as channels, harbors and bays for transportation of goods, commercial fishing, and recreation. One key element in preserving the viability of this resource is dredging. These efforts are much more than removal of large quantities of sediment, but rather are essential waterway management. Routine dredging as well as widening and deepening of channels is needed to accommodate a modern fleet of vessels. Cargo vessel sizes continue to grow to maximize shipping efficiencies and reduce costs. This continued trend has led to multiple widening and deepening projects in the channel over the past century, including the Coos Bay harbor. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) allocated funds in their workplan to include river miles 12 to 15 in upcoming annual maintenance dredging of the Coos Bay channel. This portion of the channel, from approximately the Oregon Chip Terminal facility to Georgia Pacific, has not received maintenance dredging since 2010, limiting deep draft vessel traffic. With this portion of the channel returned to its authorized depth of -37’, restrictions on vessel traffic will be reduced. In addition to this effort, we continue to progress the Channel Modification project, which will deepen and widen the Coos Bay Navigation Channel. This project will expand the footprint to -45’ and 450’ nominal width, serving to make larger cargo ships passable which in turn render more economic opportunities to existing and future customers.
The Port works to support our working waterfront through infrastructure and amenities designed to serve the fleets, our local community, and visitors. The Charleston Marina is the third largest working waterfront on the Oregon coast. It supports about 250 commercial vessels and landed almost 20 million pounds of commercial fish in 2018 at an estimated value of $27.5 million. The Charleston Marina is a hub for both commercial and recreational fishermen and boasts amenities such as 440 boat slips and a RV park welcoming 1500 guests last year. The Port has also been part of a larger initiative in promoting regional tourism marketing and development through the South Coast Tourism Network which includes industry stakeholders from Reedsport to Brookings. On the environmental front, the Charleston Shipyard also welcomed a state-of-the-art storm water treatment system in 2018. The storm water treatment system utilizes an innovative technology (Chitosan Enhanced Sand Filtration) to significantly improve water runoff from the shipyard into the slough. In addition, the Port continues to work closely with environmental agencies to properly deconstruct and dispose of the many derelict vessels in the Charleston Marina.
Community and industry engagement continue to be a priority for the Port. The Port hosted multiple groups and key industry conferences in Coos Bay during 2018. These groups included the Northwest Marine Terminal Association, the Oregon Public Ports Association, the Pacific Coast Congress of Harbor Masters and Port Managers, and a group of Oregon State Legislators. Facilitating these groups brings awareness to the unique benefits of the Port as well as visitors to the area that support the local hospitality industry.
I am confident that 2019 will yield new and exciting opportunities for our Port community. We have a quest for quality and will strive to maximize visibility that we believe improves efficiency. As a primary economic driver for the region and state, we are firmly committed to the strong continuation of ongoing projects and initiating new economic development activities. In 2019, we will build a community and regional economy that is true to its roots while striving to cultivate opportunities to expand and diversify the economic fabric of the region.
We are ready for 2019 and pledge a commitment to service! Thank you for your support and partnership.
John Burns, CEO
Oregon International Port of Coos Bay