Douglas County Board of Commissioners Tom Kress, Chris Boice, and Tim Freeman are proud to announce the successful completion of a historic dredging project at Salmon Harbor Marina in Winchester Bay,.
This achievement was made possible through the dedicated efforts of Harbor Master Jim Zimmer, under the visionary direction of Commissioner Boice and the commissioners. The endeavor not only ensures the continued operation of the commercial fishing fleet and navigational safety, but also achieved remarkable cost savings, marking a significant milestone for the local community.
Although dredging Salmon Harbor has been a priority for Douglas County, it was an arduous journey to get the work completed due to the complexities of the permitting process, cost-prohibitive equipment mobilization and bidding obstacles. The last time Salmon Harbor Marina was dredged was in 2003.
“We are pleased that we were able to get the dredging done, but the journey to accomplishing this was quite an ordeal,” stated Commissioner Chris Boice. “Our Harbor Master Jim Zimmer did a phenomenal job coordinating with multiple agencies and hurdling various obstacles; however, the marina community shouldn’t have to wait so long for this important work to get done.
I’m exploring the option of acquiring our own dredging equipment. If the County were to acquire a suction dredge, it would not only save time and money, but it would also allow us to do this work, day in and day out. My vision is for us to do the work and then have the ability to repurpose the dredge spoils in a way that benefits the locals who work hard to make Winchester Bay the diamond it is on the Oregon Coast.”
In 2021, Commissioner Boice explored the idea that Douglas County Government and Salmon Harbor Marina work with Federal and State agencies to piggyback dredging projects already scheduled on the west coast, which could consequently reduce equipment mobilization costs.
Zimmer began working toward a multi-agency agreement to accomplish this feat. On June 23, 2021, Commissioner Boice and Harbor Master Jim Zimmer convened a pivotal meeting at the Winchester Bay Marina Activity Center, bringing together key stakeholders including regulatory consultants and representatives from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of State Lands, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. This meeting laid the groundwork for a comprehensive approach to the dredging project.
This gathering addressed two crucial issues:
Establishing a long-range dredging plan.
Exploring the creation of an in-harbor dredge spoils disposal site, a move that would enable Salmon Harbor to manage its own annual dredging, address overdue work, and potentially add six to twelve acres of land. Importantly, it highlighted the potential cost savings associated with having an in-harbor disposal site, reducing reliance on the USACE’s offshore disposal.
Project Segmentation: Recognizing the complexity of the permit process, the project was segmented into two essential components.
A 10-year Individual Dredge Permit.
A Beneficial Use Permit for in-harbor disposal.
The Permitting Process: Securing the necessary 10-year individual dredge permit was a collaborative effort involving regulatory consultants at Stewardship Solutions and engineering experts at NorWest Engineering. Together, the team tackled aquatic surveys, sediment studies, and engineering plans. The Port of Umpqua further contributed by covering half of the $68,000 bill for the required sediment analysis, demonstrating a commitment to the success of the project. Despite the initial complications, by August 2022, this concerted effort cleared the hurdles to obtain the permit needed to facilitate dredging the marina over the next ten years.
Navigating Bidding Obstacles: The project encountered challenges during the bidding process. The initial solicitation in August 2022 received no responses, and the second solicitation resulted in bids ranging from $800,000 to $1.3 million, far exceeding the budget. Notably, a significant portion of the high cost was attributed to equipment mobilization, amounting to $500,000. To address this, the strategy was adjusted to leverage the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ existing contract for dredging Federal marina channels. Through determination and adaptability, a contract was successfully secured and authorization was obtained from the Local Contract Review Board to contract directly with the contractor responsible for the USACE work, JM Mcamis.
Execution and Completion: The dredging project commenced on September 1, 2023, starting with the east basin Federal channel and proceeding to the Salmon Harbor breakwater commercial dock on September 6. Operating 24/7 around the clock, the project concluded on September 9, successfully removing 10,522 cubic yards of sediment. Importantly, this endeavor ensures the continued operation of the commercial fishing fleet, a cornerstone of the local economy.
Financial Efficiency: Remarkably, the project was completed under budget, with a total cost of $203,352, measurably lower than half the estimated $500,000 for equipment mobilization alone, as well as the estimates that were four to nine times that in previous bids.
Future Plans: Looking forward to 2024, Salmon Harbor Marina has ambitious plans to capitalize on cost-saving opportunities. The U.S. Coast Guard is scheduled to dredge the east basin, presenting a timely opportunity to collaborate and complete additional work. Due to the cost of mobilization and demobilization of equipment, and the expense of offshore disposal, Douglas County is investigating Commissioner Boice’s idea of purchasing its own suction dredge. For approximately the same cost as the project expense this year, the possibility of using County-owned equipment to complete the work and utilizing an onsite disposal site could be both cost-effective and prudent, especially with the goal of further land expansion in and around the harbor. Therefore, Salmon Harbor also aims to reassess the feasibility of obtaining the Beneficial Use Permit, allowing the marina to manage its own annual dredging and reduce backlog to create that additional usable land. Additionally, Harbor Master Zimmer is exploring temporary and mobile dewatering solutions to minimize environmental impact and streamline the efficiency and sustainability of future dredging efforts.
Purpose of Dredging: Dredging a marina serves several vital purposes, including:
Maintaining Navigable Depths: Ensures the safe navigation of boats and vessels.
Preventing Shoaling: Mitigates hazards caused by sediment buildup.
Improving Access: Enhances entry and exit for vessels.
Enhancing Safety: Reduces the likelihood of accidents.
Facilitating Boat Movement: Simplifies vessel operations.
Supporting Water Quality: Improves the marine environment.
Maintaining Infrastructure: Extends the life of marina structures.
Accommodating Larger Vessels: Adapts to varying vessel sizes.
Promoting Tourism and Economy: Boosts local economies.
Complying with Regulations: Meets environmental and safety standards.
The completion of this historic dredging project ensures the safety and accessibility of Salmon Harbor Marina. This achievement also underscores the unwavering commitment and meticulous planning of Douglas County Government to responsible stewardship of its maritime assets and the well-being of its local economy, ensuring a brighter and more sustainable future for this vital economic and recreational hub in Douglas County.
“We had the full backing of the Board of Commissioners, the Local Contract Review Board, and the Management and Finance Department, giving us the latitude to manage this project effectively,” stated Harbor Master Jim Zimmer. “My office has already received feedback from commercial fishermen and local business owners voicing their appreciation, indicating that the project was an instant benefit to the community.”
Salmon Harbor Marina, “the best kept secret on the Oregon Coast,” is one of the largest recreational facilities along the Oregon Coast. Salmon Harbor has immediate access to the Umpqua River, the Umpqua River Lighthouse and Coastal History Museum, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, the Pacific Ocean, and miles of public white-sand beaches.
The full-service marina offers 550 moorage slips with power and water, two launch ramps, a full-service fuel dock and 124 self-contained first-come, first-served camping sites with restroom and shower facilities. They also operate the nationally renowned Winchester Bay RV Resort with 138 large full-hook up sites with newly upgraded WiFi service.