- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 14, 2017

ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) - Local leaders rejoiced in September when Astoria Marine Construction Co. was offered a five-year reprieve from a state-mandated cleanup expected to close the 93-year-old shipyard, giving the community several years to find a new location.

But Astoria Marine owner Tim Fastabend, waiting for a record of decision that will initiate the five-year deadline, said his company is operating on a day-to-day basis.

He said that how long Astoria Marine stays open depends on whether there are any major breakdowns or other expenses, which he would be reluctant to make knowing the boatyard will eventually close. “The best case scenario is we’re here another year, a year and a half.”

Bob Williams, Astoria Marine project manager for the state Department of Environmental Quality, said he hopes to have a decision on Astoria Marine’s cleanup in the next month or two, after which the state and Astoria Marine would finalize the consent judgment.

Williams estimates permitting for the cleanup, which Astoria Marine has already begun, could take a year or more, with the physical cleanup taking one to two years. “You could say about three years for cleanup.”

The approved cleanup plan would cap and remove contaminated soil at the Lewis and Clark River shipyard at an estimated cost of more than $2 million. Astoria Marine representatives have said the plan will result in the closure of the shipyard, which repairs many of the region’s fishing vessels.

Finding a new home

The Port of Astoria, Clatsop Economic Development Resources and other local groups have been trying to find a solution to relocate Astoria Marine, or at least similar services provided by the company’s specialty shipwrights. Jim Knight, the Port’s executive director, said he and other local leaders met with Fastabend about his future a month ago at Englund Marine and Industrial Supply Co.

“I don’t have a sense that (Astoria Marine) is going to be staying in business very much longer,” Knight said of the meeting. “The cleanup process has taken a lot of his resources and time, and he’s close to retirement.”

“We’re looking at where we can produce the boatyard in the fastest time, and that’s (North) Tongue Point,” Knight said.

North Tongue Point includes at least 30 acres of tarmac and a former seaplane ramp used by existing shipwright companies J&H; Boatworks and WCT Marine to haul large boats out of the water. The two companies operate in large, World War II-era hangars big enough to fit large fishing vessels, but Knight said there’s unlikely to be any vacancies in the near future.

Pacific Coast Seafood, which lost its processing plant in Warrenton to a fire in 2013 and relocated to another hangar at North Tongue Point, is rebuilding in Warrenton and expects to return by spring. But Knight said the company has talked about wanting to operate at both Warrenton and North Tongue Point.

The Port is also determining whether it needs to pay for a new system to pump sewage over a hill from North Tongue Point to the Astoria lagoons. Knight said the U.S. Department of Commerce, which owns a northern portion of the property for Tongue Point Job Corps Center, is looking to replace its sewage system and disconnect from the Port.

The Port has leased a southern portion of North Tongue Point from Montana-based Washington Development Group since 2009. Before the Port makes any significant investments there, Knight said, the agency needs to finish negotiating the purchase of the facility before the lease comes up in 2019, a goal of the Port Commission. “I hope that we can get this wrapped up in the next few (months), figuring out the purchase price,” he said.


Information from: The Daily Astorian, https://www.dailyastorian.com

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