Depoe Bay check dam not getting dredged

Brian Lofgren, owner of Underwater Earth Movers, Inc., tosses a tire onto a pile of garbage and other material he and his crew picked up during dredging of Depoe Bay Harbor. While the five-person dredging crew continues long-awaited work in the Depoe Bay Harbor, the check dam will remain un-dredged, at least this year. (Photo by Madeline Shannon)

Harbor work not enough to keep silt out

DEPOE BAY — With dredging underway in Depoe Bay Harbor, some members of the Depoe Bay community are worried the dredging effort will be for naught if the check dam, which flows into the harbor, isn’t included in the dredging.

Local officials said that while the check dam won’t get dredged with the harbor in the next two weeks, check dam dredging will likely occur after the Army Corps of Engineers allocates money towards that facet of the project. 

“I think that’s a mistake,” said Terry Thompson, former Lincoln County commissioner and himself an avid boater. “The check dam should be dredged because it’s a lot easier to take the mud out behind the check dam than it is to dredge it out of the bay.”

The check dam flows into Depoe Bay Harbor and deposits silt and other materials onto the floor of the harbor. Harbor officials said it takes about 10 years for an un-dredged check dam to deposit silt and other materials into the harbor to the point where parts of the harbor, like the fuel dock, are rendered inaccessible during low or receding tides. 

“We’re pushing to get it done as soon as possible,” said Roy Hildebrand, Depoe Bay harbormaster. “If it’s not cleaned out, all that material gets deposited into the harbor.”

Hildebrand said the check dam itself was last dredged between 14 and 16 years ago, putting it well over the amount of time where it should have been dredged. Silt coming out of the overfilled check dam now flows out into the harbor.

City officials said this week that in meetings earlier this year with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the check dam was supposed to get dredged with the harbor. The funding allotted for the harbor dredging, however, wasn’t enough to get the check dam dredged at the same time. 

“When we found out what the allocated funds were, we were told we can’t do both in one contract in one year,” said Depoe Bay Mayor Robert Gambino. “Hopefully it’ll get done in the spring or summer if things go as we hope.”

Long-time locals like Thompson said the check dam used to get dredged whenever the harbor got dredged. With the check dam — much like the harbor — being fairly small in size, silt, mud and other material can fill it up pretty quickly.

“This is the world’s smallest harbor,” Thompson said. “So it doesn’t take a lot of mud to make it shallow and it also doesn’t take a long time to get it out of here. But somebody has to do it if you’re going to have an industry in Depoe Bay.”

Gambino is concerned if the check dam isn’t dredged in the next year, the harbor will once again be put at risk. 

“If it’s not dredged for a full year, we would be looking at the harbor being compromised,” said Gambino. 

While the check dam itself needs dredging, there is currently no firm indication of when the Army Corps of Engineers will allocate funding for that particular project. Some Depoe Bay boaters, like Thompson, aren’t holding their breath.

“I guess you’d say when I get to be an old man,” Thompson said of when the funding will come through. “I don’t know. Funding is always a challenge.”


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