GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS BoatU.S. SPECIAL REPORT By Ryck LydeckeR
CAN AMERICA KEEP ITS WATERWAYS WORKING?
Our nation’s maritime infrastructure is suffering from insufficient funding to maintain
dredging efforts, protective jetties, ports, and other crucial navigation improvements
THE TILLAMOOK COUNTY CREAMERY ASSOCIATION must be the only dairy farmers’ cooperative in the country that displays a two- masted schooner under full sail and with “a bone in her teeth” as its advertising logo. There’s a good reason cows and canvas go well together in this dramatic reach of Oregon’s ocean coast. The
settler-farmers of the 1850s, their fertile valley hemmed in on three sides by
rugged mountains and vast forests, looked to the ocean to get their goods to
market, and so they built a 40-foot schooner to do it.
Like the other river-mouth inlets along this rugged coast, Tillamook Bay’s outflowing
waters conflict with ocean tides and currents, leading to a buildup of dangerous shoals made
all the more treacherous during Pacific storms. A single 5,400-foot rock jetty built in 1915
on the north side of Tillamook Inlet provided mariners some protection sailing in and out of
the Port of Garibaldi until 1979 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built another jetty
on the south side, 5,500 feet long. The twin jetties served two functions, buffering onshore
seas to protect the entry, and concentrating harbor outflow to scour a channel. The Pacific
Ocean, after all, is unforgiving.
“These jetties take a beating from ocean storms and we’ve lost over 900 feet of the south
jetty since it was built,” says Val Folkema, a commissioner with the Port of Garibaldi. “As a
result, the Tillamook Bay bar is getting more and more treacherous, and that’s a real threat
to our recreational and commercial fishing
fleets. In the past seven or eight years alone,
17 lives have been lost out there.”
For Folkema, it gets personal; her hus-
band Jeff is a commercial crabber who has
to navigate the inlet in his 26-foot boat to
tend traps five to 10 miles offshore. Their
two sons work on the water as well and,
as a family, they operate Garibaldi Marina,
roughly a mile inside the inlet. Tillamook,
in the local Native American tribal language
here, means “many waters” for the five rivers
that flow into it.
Pounding Pacific waves have taken a toll on Oregon’s Tillamook Inlet jetties. Meanwhile, federal funding to maintain waterway infra- structure nationwide is suffering as well.