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Port of Astoria expansion stalls

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Sunday, February 01, 2009
TonguePoint.jpg Tongue Point is three miles east of Astoria on the Columbia River.

PHOTO COURTESY OF GVA KIDDER MATHEWS

ASTORIA It’s an ideal industrial site for a municipal port looking to expand: 30 acres of paved tarmac, five concrete piers, warehouses, hangers, and a deep-water channel that leads straight to the Columbia River. It’s a site that one state official describes as unique on the entire West Coast. Price tag: $7 million.

But for the debt-saddled Port of Astoria, that may be too much. And its inability to come up with the funds threatens what would be the largest expansion by a coastal port in several years.

Tongue Point is a tree-covered elbow of land about three miles east of Astoria on the Columbia River. It was used during World War II as a site for mothballed Navy ships. Since then, individual users have temporally occupied portions of the property.

Scott Fraser, an agent with GVA Kidder Mathews, is selling Tongue Point for its owner, the Montana-based Washington Group. He says the land has been for sale for about seven years. A possible buyer, which Fraser wouldn’t name but is presumably the port, recently signed a non-binding letter of intent to buy.

That’s all the information known about the possible sale. Because of agreements with Washington Group and companies that are potential occupants, the port cannot reveal how much it would earn from leases, what capital improvements must be done, or even the appraised value of the property.

Port executive director Jack Crider maintains an upbeat tone. Right now it’s too early for the port to say where purchasing funds could come from. Crider says he’s confident the site will generate steady revenue since the agency will fill Tongue Point with smaller tenants — he referred to them as “low-hanging fruit” — rather than one very large company.

According to Mike Robison, Clatsop County finance director, the county is considering using video lottery funds in a way it’s never done before: giving the port $200,000 to kick-start the Tongue Point purchase.

ABRAHAM HYATT



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