An entrepreneur who wants to revive the Salvage Chief for disaster response blames Clatsop County staff for killing a bill that would have provided $1.9 million in state money for the project.

Floyd Holcom, speaking during the public comment period at the county commission meeting Wednesday night, said an email circulated by Tiffany Brown, the county’s emergency manager, “torpedoed and sabotaged” the effort in Salem.

Salvage Chief

The Salvage Chief was a naval landing vessel converted to perform marine salvage. It aided nearly 300 vessels.

Brown had informed county commissioners she was skeptical about the project and notified them Senate Bill 678 was pending with a few days remaining in the session. Just before the session ended in June, Holcom said state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, one of the bill’s sponsors, informed him the bill would not advance.

On Wednesday, Holcom told commissioners Brown’s email “essentially killed SB 678.” He said the email was “interwoven with personal attacks, false statements, misleading hearsay and omissions of important facts.”

Other supporters of the Salvage Chief also spoke out. “I’ve been very involved in Senate Bill 678 and I was very saddened that Clatsop County threw us under the bus,” said Don Floyd, the chairman of the Salvage Chief Foundation.

Brown was not immediately available to comment. County commissioners and county staff did not publicly respond to Holcom’s criticism.

The money from Salem would have gone to repair and upgrade the decommissioned World War II-era ship that helped nearly 300 vessels during its service life.

Holcom, the owner of Pier 39, purchased the Salvage Chief in 2015 and believes it could be useful after a disaster. But others have questioned whether restoring the vessel makes sense and have asked for a more detailed plan for how it would be used in an emergency.

“Although we have to start all over, there is no plan or asset available to perform the duties to keep the Columbia River channel clear outside of the Salvage Chief!” Holcom said in a Facebook post.

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.

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