Opinion: The Port of Coos Bay Project is a Winner for Jobs, the Environment

Sen. Ron Wyden writes about why the federal government should fund the project.

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In 26 words, the White House describes the Bidenomics philosophy as simply as this:

·       Making smart public investments in America. 

·       Empowering and educating workers to grow the middle class. 

·       Promoting competition to lower costs and help entrepreneurs and small businesses

In five words – the Port of Coos Bay – Oregon can meet each one of those goals with a project that’s a winner for jobs and a winner for the environment because it will take diesel-belching trucks off the roads.

Like far too many rural communities across America, the small Oregon Coast towns of Coos Bay and North Bend have rearview mirrors clouded with failed past economic promises from both the federal government and the private sector.

But after those past disappointments, the Port of Coos Bay has designed a bright path ahead for the Oregonians who live in these two neighboring towns. 

The port’s proposal is an innovative market-smart approach that fully deserves federal investment because it matches the Bidenomics blueprint by generating middle-class job growth, lowering costs for consumers and helping small businesses in Oregon and nationwide. 

I saw and heard anew this summer in Coos Bay how the port’s groundbreaking ocean-to-rail concept would take advantage of the significant geographic edge enjoyed by Oregon’s Bay Area to shorten transport times and compete with Canada. 

Building this modern container terminal could increase West Coast shipping capacity up to 10 percent. Businesses would receive a direct line to export signature Oregon products such as microchips and ag, as well as import consumer goods for transport via rail nationwide. 

And this project has the added benefit of fighting the climate crisis by taking carbon-emitting trucks out of the supply chain equation.

This promising Port of Coos Bay initiative fits exactly with what the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law sought to produce for small communities across America seeking job-generating investments.

The best proposals will qualify for federal investment. And the Port of Coos Bay proposal can – and should – rise to the top of this upcoming round of competition, with domestic and global benefits providing faster shipping times, reducing supply chain glitches, lowering costs for shippers and generating tangible climate gains via lower carbon emissions. 

The Port of Coos Bay also has an existing federal channel capable of handling large container ships.  And the Port benefits from direct access to a short line railroad.

President Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg have heard me convey the significance of this project many times — and as recently as September. And I’m all in to keep pressing the case.

That’s because the tiny towns of Coos Bay and North Bend on the Oregon Coast are showing how rural America can develop innovative infrastructure investment opportunities — after decades of dashed hopes — that thread the economic needle for their communities. 

Oregonians living and working in these two towns have experienced a checkered history of failed economic prescriptions over the years. Proposals for a wave energy park, a steel mill, a liquefied natural gas facility, a shipbreaking and salvage operation have all come and gone. Sadly, those economic frustrations are not new for small towns all across America that feel left behind in the 21st century economy.

But happily, this fresh ocean-to-pier project aligns perfectly with community and statewide needs for new jobs, and national concerns over clogged supply chains that hurt small businesses and consumers alike.

Simply put in two words, this Port of Coos Bay proposal should earn this response from anybody truly interested in the potential of Bidenomics: “Fund it.”