The Port of Port Orford on the southern Oregon coast is unique in that it is not inside a natural bay or river. The harbor is in a natural cove with a rock headland to the north and west. The port provides the fishing industry direct access to the ocean, and ocean waves from the south have direct access to the infrastructure of the port. Before 1935, the frequent southwesterly winter storms caused extensive damage to harbor facilities. In 1935, local interests built a breakwater to the south and west to protect the pier. It was not totally effective; so in 1968 the federal government extended the breakwater by 550 feet.
Unfortunately, shortly after completion of the breakwater extension, the harbor area began to accumulate sand. Winter storms move sand along the coastline from the south to the north. Sand was stopped by the breakwater and accumulated under the dock making the water more shallow. A natural process of summer winds and storms could not move the sand out and back to the south because the breakwater prevented wind and water currents from moving through the area. As a result, in 1970, emergency dredging was required.
In 1996 the Port of Port Orford constructed a solid face dock. Engineers told the Port that the sheet piling would create a scouring effect that would take sand away from the dock. After construction, the sand continued to accumulate and the prediction of scouring did not occur. As of 2008, the sand continued to accumulate against steel sheeting along the face of the dock making the water at times too shallow for fishing boats to be taken out or put into the water. Meanwhile the natural flow of sand from the north in the summertime piled against the ocean side of the breakwater. This allowed huge waves from a southwest winter storm to roll up and over the breakwater into the harbor. Occasionally wave water twenty-five feet high crashed across the dock moving and destroying equipment on the dock.
The goal of this Oregon Solutions project was to find a sustainable solution for the problem of shoaling and to stimulate economic development by supporting the fishing industry and enhancing tourism in Port Orford.