The Port of Astoria’s West End Mooring Basin was extra busy Monday. Crews from Bergerson Construction pulled out old pilings and drove new ones from a barge parked amid rows of pleasure craft.
Meanwhile, crew members on the Port of Ilwaco’s dredge hooked up pipes and prepared to start the first interstate dredging partnership on the Columbia River.
Perpetually strapped for cash, the Port of Astoria has not dredged its western marina, a main local mooring space for personal craft, in more than a decade, despite long waiting lists. At low tide, slips on the north end of the marina turn into sandbars, damaging docks and leaving any wayward boats on their sides.
The Port’s dredge, the Felkins, was at work Monday on the face of Pier 1, where the agency docks cruise and log ships. But the Felkins is too large to come into the western marina.
Port of Astoria Operations Manager Matt McGrath estimated the total cost of dredging the western marina at between $500,000 and $600,000.
The partnership with Ilwaco allows the Port to spread the project out over two to three years with minimal mobilization costs, McGrath said. The agency has dedicated $273,000 this fiscal year to dredging. That work will open 35 additional slips and bring in an estimated $40,000 in additional annual revenue.
The Port of Ilwaco is a smaller agency mostly based around a marina. To maintain that marina, Ilwaco has a much smaller hydraulic suction dredge — a waterborne aardvark that loosens and sucks up sediment before piping it away for disposal.
“We’re always talking about what we do with our dredge,” said Guy Glenn Jr., the Port of Ilwaco’s executive director. “We dredged the Port of Chinook last dredging season earlier this year.”
Ilwaco’s dredge was trucked across the Columbia River on the Astoria Bridge a couple of weeks ago and lowered into the water by Astoria’s boat lift at Pier 3. After waiting for permits, the crew received the go-ahead Monday to start dredging, with Port of Astoria crews providing support.
John Demase, manager of marinas for the Port of Ilwaco, said his crew will work in Astoria until January. The multiyear effort will start at the northeastern end of the marina, where a growing sand bar leaves boat slips high and dry at low tide. Ilwaco’s dredge will work westward toward the Port of Astoria’s fueling dock, before heading back to Washington in January to finish other dredging projects by the time the federally designated in-water work period ends Feb. 28.
“We’ll be kind of monitoring how things go in Astoria, and hopefully things will turn out well, and there will be other opportunities,” Glenn said.