Port of Bandon reclaims seafood plant

Port of Bandon reclaims seafood plant

1110_ATS15The Port of Bandon has assumed control of a seafood processing plant and market building from Clackamas-based Pacific Seafood Group (PSG) after two years of tense negotiations in which the port charged that PSG broke a 1982 lease on the 14,000-square-foot “blue building,” located on the shores of the Coquille River just as it spills into the Pacific.

Based on the loss of timber and fishing jobs in the 1980s, the 100-year lease was “written in the spirit of putting people to work,” says Port of Bandon general manager Gina Dearth. The lease called for rent of a penny per square foot for commercial seafood processing use.

Bandon’s prime location has attracted salmon fishermen for many years. “In 1986 we had around 100 [boats],” Dearth says of Bandon’s historic commercial salmon fishing industry. “Now there are three.”

Regulations in the late 1980s greatly reduced the industry. Bandon has since invested in tourism and sport fishing to compensate for the loss in commercial fishing related revenues.

A year after PSG acquired the lease in 1999 through the purchase of leaseholder SNS Fisheries, it moved the building’s seafood processing equipment to another facility, disappointing port officials who saw the move as stripping the building of its intended use. In early 2009, PSG began storing crabbing cages and other equipment in the building to meet the commercial use requirement. During the lawsuit, PSG asked for $750,000 to vacate the building, a figure that was reduced to $340,000 to be paid in installments.

PSG would not comment on the port taking control of the building. Port officials are keeping their plans for the site intentionally vague. The port has taken proposals from the community ranging from a movie theatre to a poker room to seafood processing. Coos Bay architecture firm Crow/Clay & Associates in October presented the most popular proposals from the community. Until a final design is chosen, a farmers market or other public uses such as fair space likely will fill the building.

“We want to take our time with this,” Dearth says.

PETER BELAND