East Mooring Basin causeway

The Port of Astoria recently erected a taller fence to better block access to the shuttered causeway at the East Mooring Basin.

The Port of Astoria is piecing together a plan to reopen the ailing East Mooring Basin to pedestrians in the coming year and dredge the shallowing West Mooring Basin over the next three years.

The Port contracted with the Port of Ilwaco last year to dredge the West Mooring Basin, where silting has left many of the slips high and dry during low tides. But Ilwaco’s dredge only removed about half of the expected sediment and opened less than a third of the intended slips, requiring private mediation between the two ports to avoid a lawsuit.

The Port budgeted $150,000 this year to dredge the West Mooring Basin and went out to bid for a private contractor to finish the entire basin over multiple years, receiving three proposals. Astoria-based Bergerson Construction came back with a bid of less than $1.2 million — between nearly $1 million to $2 million cheaper than its competitors — to dredge the entire marina and will likely receive the contract.

Matt McGrath, the Port’s director of operations, said he is confident Bergerson will be effective. The company recently acquired a dredge specifically to service small harbors and marinas like the Port’s.

Bergerson has done work in Newport and Westport, Washington. It recently received a contract to dredge the Hammond Marina for Warrenton during this year’s dredging window starting next month. Dredging at the West Mooring Basin would be spread out over two dredge windows starting in November 2020 and 2021.

“The hope is to just take the ($150,000) we had from this year’s budget for the dredging of the West Mooring Basin … and put it toward repairs on the causeway,” McGrath said of the East Mooring Basin. “We’re hoping that will open pedestrian access.”

The Port, following a recommendation from the state, shut down pedestrian access last year to the causeway, a bridge running between 36th Street and a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers breakwater along the Columbia River. The causeway provides vital access for the few remaining commercial boat owners at the marina and is popular with sightseers who want to view sea lions.

But enforcement has been lax, with people climbing over a short fence the agency erected to keep people out. The Port recently erected a taller, 8-foot fence to better keep people off the causeway. The agency sent a letter to tenants granting them a key to the gate and temporary access to the causeway, but will bar all access starting in November.

When the repairs to the causeway will happen depends on when the Port hears back on a permit and hires a contractor to do the work. The hope is to reopen the causeway in the next three to six months, McGrath said.

The entire marina has been under consideration for private operation by a development group led by Pier 39 owner Floyd Holcom. That proposal has been put on hold, McGrath said.

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or estratton@dailyastorian.com.

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