The Port of Astoria Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to plead guilty to the agency's 2005 dredge violations and pay $174,000 in related state and federal fines.

Commissioner Bill Hunsinger voted no, saying "it is an absolute tragedy that voters and taxpayers should be held responsible for what went on here."

Commissioners Larry Pfund, Kathy Sanders, Dan Hess and Floyd Holcom voted yes.

The board approved agreements with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality admitting the Port illegally discharged dredged material into the Columbia River estuary without permission.

The Port agreed to mitigate the damages by paying civil penalties totaling $125,000 to the Corps and $45,400 to DEQ.

The state and federal violations stem from the same dredging action, which took place during the Port's controversial and costly 2005 dredging season.

Peter Gearin, who was the Port director at the time, has been under a federal criminal investigation and may still be charged for his role in illegally releasing the dredge material from the Pier 3 storage facility into the estuary. Gearin was fired in 2007 to restore the Port's credibility. The Port Commission in 2005 included Glenn Taggart, Don McDaniel and Jim Bergeron, who have since been replaced by Holcom, Sanders and Hunsinger.

"I'm still not happy with the victims - the public - paying for actions done by a few bad apples," Holcom said. "As I told the U.S. attorney, I have a hard time swallowing the fact that the U.S. government is charging taxpayers for what should have been levied at the individuals who made the error."

For more details, read Wednesday's edition of The Daily Astorian or log on to this Web site later Wednesday

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