Port of Astoria reinforces ailing log-export dock

The pilings along 380 feet of dock on Pier 1 where log ships are loaded are in need of replacement, according to Port of Astoria staff.

The Port of Astoria will spend nearly $80,000 over the next few months replacing fender pilings on the west side of Pier 1 in a stopgap measure to keep its lucrative log-export dock operating.

All 60 of the wooden pilings on the 380 feet of Pier 1’s western face, where longshoremen load log ships for Astoria Forest Products, are in need of replacement, according to a report to the Port Commission Tuesday. The $78,580 approved by the commission would replace 24 pilings, evenly spaced in groups of four across the dock.

The wooden pilings will keep the dock open while the Port develops a long-term, multiphase plan to install more durable steel pilings sheathed in polyurethane. McGrath estimated the cost of the project at $750,000 to $1 million for the entire dock, saying the process would be spread out over hopefully no more than three years.

“There have been comments from ships’ captains saying, ‘Hey, that dock does not look like it’s going to support us,’” Matt McGrath, the Port’s director of operations, said. “Pier 1 is our golden goose. That’s where we get 20 to 30 percent of our (operating) revenues, so we have to take care of it. We’ve just not done that previously.”

McGrath estimated $3.5 million in needs for Pier 1, from purchasing a generator and moving a fuel tank to paving and encasing the pier in metal sheet piling.

The Port, updating a 2010 strategic plan to guide its efforts, faces older, crumbling infrastructure across most of its properties. During a strategic planning workshop Tuesday, Port Executive Director Jim Knight said Port staff outlined about $60 million worth of improvements needed to bring the entire Port into proper working order. The Port Commission and staff will next look at the agency’s financial capacity and which projects are most likely to attract grant support, Knight said.

The Port received a clean opinion on an audit of its 2016-17 financial statements by accounting firm Talbot, Korvola & Warwick. The Port improved its net financial position, including revenues and assets minus expenses, from nearly $18.9 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year to more than $21.7 million this past year, mostly because of $4 million worth of improvements at the Astoria Regional Airport funded by grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and state Department of Transportation. The agency also increased its operating revenues by nearly $277,000, while decreasing operating expenses by more than $400,000.

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