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Oregon lawmakers approve $40M towards Port of Coos Bay development

 A video still from the Port of Coos Bay's YouTube channel shows the coastal area where developers want to facilitate more large container ships.
Port of Coos Bay YouTube channel
A video still from the Port of Coos Bay's YouTube channel shows the coastal area where developers want to facilitate more large container ships.

Efforts to make the Port of Coos Bay a major shipping facility got help from the Oregon Legislature this week.

Lawmakers in both chambers approved the allocation of $40 million towards supporting what’s called the Pacific Coast Intermodal Port (PCIP) Project. The money is to help fund the dredging and expansion of the existing waterway to accommodate large container ships, and transport goods via rail to other parts of the region, including Eugene.

U.S. House Representative Val Hoyle told KLCC that she’s pleased with the action, which drew bipartisan support. The plan is to deepen the navigation channel from 39 to 45 feet.

 U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle (D-OR)
Val Hoyle
U.S. Rep. Val Hoyle (D-OR)

“We’re working with both business, and labor, environmentalists, and the community of the South Coast which really, really deserves to have a thriving economy again,” said Hoyle.

“We think this is an important reminder for Oregonians – especially for folks living outside of Portland – we’re deadset on seeing investment go back into building rural communities and supporting those economies.”

Proponents say once complete and running, the facility will also provide 8,000 jobs across Coos, Douglas, and Lane counties.

The $40 million allocation awaits Governor Kotek’s approval.

Hoyle added that this would improve the chances of the project getting a $500 million Mega-Grant from the federal Department of Transportation. She said they hope to hear about their application as early as next month. A previous Mega-Grant donation was denied.

The PCIP project has generated support from regional business interests, who say it’ll benefit the immediate area economically and increase commerce.

But it’s also drawn scorn from some who worry about the facility’s effects on the environment.

Mike Graybill is a former manager for the South Slough Estuarine Research Reserve. He said the extent of excavation needed to deepen the navigation channel is troubling.

“And if you could think of a river, that has a bed and a bank and a bottom, and you made a proposal to say, ‘What if I made it deeper and wider for eight miles by blasting bedrock,’ would that be okay with you?” asked Graybill.

Another point of contention is House Bill 3382, which would declare an emergency land use exemption for the Port of Coos Bay. Graybill and others say it would bypass important environmental procedures, and have called for its defeat.

Meanwhile, Hoyle and others supporting the PCIP have their own environmental talking points. They say the use of container ships and using rail to transport goods will take more large trucks off of the roads, which means less greenhouse emissions.

Copyright 2023 KLCC. To see more, visit KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. He is a 20-year reporter who has worked at NPR, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including three Edward R. Murrow Awards and the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award in 2012.