Port of Newport Cleans Up Yaquina Bay

The Port of Newport has almost finished cleaning up the cargo and fishermen’s dock site in Yaquina Bay with its Terminal Project. The old cargo dock had been closed for safety reasons for several years. It was originally formed in 1948 by sinking two World War II-era concrete barges, the SS Pasley and the SS Hennebique. Unfortunately, though the Hennebique was in a stable berth, the Pasley was not. Over the decades the Pasley began to list and move with the tides; and in 1996 oil from the Pasley’s interior spilled into Yaquina Bay. The Port of Newport had known for some time that this dangerous and deteriorating situation must be fully addressed. In 2006 the Port’s taxpayers approved a $15 million bond measure specifically to tackle the remediation of the Pasley and Hennebique, and rebuild the multipurpose dock and the commercial fishing dock.

After going through various alternatives, and also unsuccessfully seeking funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) in 2009, the Port submitted a new application in 2010 to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Oregon Dept. of State Lands and the Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality. The Port proposed to completely clean the Pasley, compartment by compartment, and fill it with clean ballast. Then the Port would begin the process of completely removing the ship from the Bay, which would require placement of a sheet pile wall around the ship and completely dewatering the area in order to perform all the work. This project was estimated to take about eight months.

The Hennebique was to be be left in Yaquina Bay, functioning essentially as a concrete retaining wall. As it is in a stable berth and has never leaked, it is much less dangerous. However, the Port planned to remove all the Hennebique’s interior compartments, scrub the shell clean, and re-ballast it. The Port’s plan also included building new Port offices and replacement of the commercial fishermen’s dock, which would entail removing the creosote pilings that supported the old dock. These old creosote-treated pilings had been polluting Yaquina Bay for decades.

All the proposals laid out by the Port in its 2010 application have come to fruition, and the Port’s new Terminal is nearly complete. The Pasley has been successfully removed; the Hennebique has been cleaned, scrubbed and re-ballasted; new Port offices have been built, as has the commercial fishermen’s dock. There is also a new “multi-purpose” dock. What will the Port do with its new dock facilities? This has not yet been decided, but companies have expressed interest to the Port for various portions ranging from a log yard to other cargo options. ORCA continues to work with Newport residents to integrate the newly-revitalized Port into the surrounding neighborhoods. This may not be a smooth process, as the Port was moribund for more than twenty years, while the City of Newport continued to grow and change; but the opportunities for fruitful accommodation are many.

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