Port Of Newport Hears Update On Legislation That Could Affect The Future Of The Port Commission



State Representative David Gomberg addressing the Port of Newport (photo by Kiera Morgan)

Mary Botkin and Judy Mehrens legislative lobbyists from Salem spoke to the Port commission on House Bill 2284 that was proposed by Greg Smith from Umatilla. If passed the legislation would designate the Port as an International Port, similar to what has been done at Coos Bay. This would also authorize the Governor to appoint five commissioners proposed to represent the fishing industry, agriculture/timber, local chamber or small business interests, the labor union and one member at large.


Mehrens said "we are not trying to restrict the use of the port. This is not an anti-fishing bill it is to ensure there is adequate representation of all users and stakeholders." They want to make sure Newport could make a strong contribution to the state. State Representative David Gomberg spoke to the port commission about what steps would be taken regarding the bill. He said there are 10 legislatures who have signed on as co-sponsors, but emphasized that none of them are from the Coastal Caucus.


He said the bill will be assigned to a committee and if the committee approves it, it will then go to the house for a vote. There will be opportunities for the public and port commission to comment when it is in the committee process. It is unknown which committee the bill will be assigned to at this time. He told the port commission that they need to explain what they have going on right now. He explained that there are those in Salem who are not happy that the port used $35-million in taxpayer investments over 12-years and haven't done any exporting like was promised, when they asked for the money for the terminal rehabilitation.


He told the commission that there were those who advocated on the Port's behalf for the federal TIGER grant only to have it turned down. He said for those in Eastern Oregon and the Willamette Valley they want to move their goods cheaper and faster then exporting to Washington and for those in the Portland they want less trucks on the roads. Gomberg told the Port Commission "You need to get your act together and let people know you have your act together". He added that he would not support this bill unless it was brought to the voters in the Port District.


During public comment Heather Mann with the Mid Water Trawlers said they are the current primary users of the international terminal. "This is an attack on fishing". She told Gomberg "The Port should not be punished for giving back the TIGER grant as that was not a good deal and it would have hurt the Port. This is not a mega shipping facility."


Steve Beck, a former Port Commissioner defended the decision to give back the TIGER grant. "We couldn't get the matching funds and the Teevin/Sylvan deal would have put the Port in bankruptcy".


Yale Fogarty from the local ILWU union emphasized that everyone needs to work together to make the Port a success. "No one is running the fishermen out. The dock space should be usable by other entities. "Shipping is what paid for the dock maintenance and infrastructure at the Port for many years. The only reason shipping stopped in Newport is because of the terminal dock space failure. Expanded opportunities will put more people to work in high income jobs."


Rex Capri, a local fishermen pointed out that "the Port belongs to the citizens of the Port District. The taxpayers approved the bond to fix the terminal to provide new economic opportunities." He said the commission needs to look at the Port district as a whole when moving forward including all the fishers, timber, agriculture, science and recreation.


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