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Dredging project underway to help protect Depoe Bay

The bay is one of the most popular tourists towns along Oregon's coast. But for fishermen, the bay means their livelihood.

DEPOE BAY, Ore. — Depoe Bay is known as the whale watching capital of the Oregon Coast and a project is underway by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect it. They want to make sure all the whale watching, fishing and rescue boats can keep coming in.

The bay is one of the most popular tourists towns along Oregon's coast and it's also home to a vital U.S. Coast Guard station. But for fishermen, the bay means their livelihood.

Every year, the harbor brings in about 85,000 pounds of fish. Commercial vessels make about 16,000 trips in and out of the bay each year and recreational boats make about 15,000 trips.

RELATED: Federal judge rules US Army Corps of Engineers to change dam practices to help salmon

In other words, the small bay is a big deal.

"We are currently dredging in the check dam structure at Depoe Bay," said Greg Speer with the Corps.

It's a catch basin-of-sorts for the bay. Machines are being used to remove silt and other material well before it gets to the bay.

"It's a first line of defense, we dredge that about every 10 years," said Speer. "That's the frequency as we've determined is the best."

If the Corps didn't do this every decade, the sediment that runs down from the mountains would build up in the catch basin and eventually flow over the dam into the bay and boats wouldn't be able to dock.

"We've got coast guard fishing industry. There's tourism. The whale watching. There's a lot of activity that happens here in the harbor. It's important to keep an open and operational," said Matthew Joerin.

So, the Corps is out removing that sediment.

"We've got about 2,000 cubic yards of material and that's about 200 dump trucks full, and we'll be taking that off site," said Joerin.

As for where it will all go? Trucks will drive it up the mountain and dump it onto private property where it will be smoothed out and seeded. The process will take place again in 10 years.

Engineers are well aware the changing climate could change things up, as sea levels rise and channels are filled faster or scoured deeper. They know projects like this one will remain critical to protect Depoe Bay.

"This little small project here contributes to keeping the bay open and the charter fishermen and the coast guard going and running hundred percent of the time," said Speer.

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