With a population of just 11,000, the coastal community of Newport, Oregon has managed to establish itself as home to one of the richest seafaring traditions on the West Coast. It’s a destination spot for visitors from throughout the United States who come to see the town’s working waterfronts and maritime-based attractions, such as the Oregon Coast History Museum, historic Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, and notable restaurants and fish markets. Newport’s Oregon Coast Community College offers the nation’s only degree program in aquarium science. The city also serves as Pacific Fleet headquarters for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, hosting Maritime Operations Center – Pacific and the survey vessels NOAAS Bell M. Shimada and NOOAS Rainier; since 2005, Newport has been designated an official Coast Guard City.
Central to it all, however, is Newport’s critical contribution to American fisheries. The town is among the top four ports for total value of commercial catch on the West Coast and is an outsized contributor to Oregon’s fishing industry, a vital economic sector that contributes $558 million in annual personal income to the Beaver State.
“On average, our marina supports 300 jobs,” explains Aaron Bretz, Director of Operations for the Port of Newport. “That swells in the summer months to 600 jobs directly supported.”
By the late 2000s, however, Newport’s status as a capital of the Pacific fishery was in jeopardy, due largely to its aging Port Dock 5 Pier. Built in the 1960s, the pier had degraded to the point that it was no longer safe to drive vehicles onto. As the most heavily used dock in the marina, the loss of Dock 5 would mean the likely downfall of Newport as the principal homeport of the Oregon fishing fleet.
In 2018, capacity limitations imposed by the antiquated infrastructure were stifling development. That year, the port had to turn away 14 annual moorage applicants, resulting in the loss of 42 potential jobs.
While port officials had plans to replace the dock, the large capital investment needed for the project, relative to the size of Newport’s tax base, was problematic.
“We were ready to move forward with the project, we just needed a funding source,” Bretz recalls.
To bridge the gap between resources and needs, the Economic Development Administration awarded a $1.2 million 2020 Public Works grant to the Port of Newport. Matched by the port with $1.2 million, the EDA investment provided the capital the port needed to rapidly replace the Port Dock 5 Pier with a new, modern facility capable of handling vehicles and featuring enhanced electrical lines with larger amperages.
In 2021, the Port of Newport officially inaugurated the new Port Dock 5 Pier. As a result of the rebuilt facility, a dozen jobs were created, 55 jobs were saved, and perhaps more critically, Newport retained its’ status as a capital of the Pacific fishery. In addition, the port is now on solid footing to plan the further expansion of its marina.
EDA’s Public Works grant program empowers distressed communities to revitalize, expand, and upgrade their physical infrastructure to attract new industry, encourage business expansion, diversify local economies, and generate or retain long-term, private sector jobs and investment.
For more information on EDA funding opportunities, please visit eda.gov.