1910 Articles of IncorporationClick here to read the minutes that record that first organizational meeting.
In 1909, the State of Oregon passed a law allowing for the creation of port districts, prompting the people of Yaquina Bay to organize into two port districts – the Port of Newport and the Port of Toledo. With a mind to improving waterfront services and waterways for economic purposes, the state law allowed for taxes to be levied and bonds to be issued.
On May 26, 1910, the first meeting of Newport’s Port Commission was held, where four men appointed by Governor Frank Benson proceeded to elect officers and establish the foundation of what continues to operate today as the Port of Newport.
Prior to the establishment of the Port, two jetties were constructed at the entrance of Yaquina Bay from the Pacific Ocean in the 1890s. Historians say few fishermen crossed the bar in this era, choosing instead to stay in the safer waters of area bays and rivers. Two developments in the early 20th century would change that mindset: the advent of the gasoline engine and improvements to the harbor entrance. A $1.5 million investment in improved jetties and dredging was funded by a bond issue undertaken jointly by the ports of Newport and Toledo.
In 1923, the Port of Newport purchased dock frontage and a building, establishing its headquarters on the waterfront. The development of commercial fishing docks occurred over the years, helped considerably by the construction of the first breakwater on the north side of the bay in 1946 to protect commercial boats working halibut, salmon and other fisheries.
Newport’s Bayfront became the area’s economic hub, particularly after electricity resulted in refrigeration capabilities, allowing for tremendous growth in the seafood industry. Shipping was also part of Yaquina Bay’s economic equation.
In 1948, a private company - Yaquina Bay Dock and Dredge – began constructing a new shipping dock utilizing two sunken World War II ships as the foundation for the structure. The dock, known today at the International Terminal, opened for business in 1949 in the area known as McLean’s Point. Over the next several decades, the dock thrived with the shipping of lumber. In 1952, for instance, 164 million feet of lumber shipped from Newport via McLean’s Point.
In a region buzzing with the activity of the fishing and shipping industries, the 1960s marked the arrival of another important player in Newport’s waterfront economy: science. In 1965, Oregon State University’s Marine Science Center opened its doors. Although the institution’s Yaquina Fisheries Laboratory had dated back to 1939, the center represented a tremendous leap forward with the lease of 50 acres from the Port of Newport on which to construct the main building and visitor center. By 1969, the site had seen more than a half million visitors. In 1982, the Marine Science Center surpassed five million visitors. A year later, it was named for Senator Mark Hatfield and today Hatfield Marine Science Center welcomes more than 150,000 visitors annually. In 2018, the University broke ground on a new $61.7 million Marine Studies Building, with an anticipated completion date of January 2020.
The 1970s saw continued demand for boat moorage and launches, as both commercial and recreational fishing interests thrived around Yaquina Bay, leading to the construction of the South Beach Marina. The first phase was completed in 1979 and included a 600-berth recreational boat basin and a four-lane launch. The second phase, finished in 1981, included a boat storage building, launch hoist, fish cleaning facilities, restrooms, showers, a public fishing pier, picnic area, and more. Initially, private companies were contracted for marina management but fiscal difficulties led the Port of Newport to assume operations in 1986.
While fishing interests grew over the 1970s and 80s, shipping from the International Terminal had declined. In 1967, 92 ships had visited the docks of Newport Terminals. By 1971, that number was down to 34. In 1982, the Port of Newport issued general obligation bonds in order to purchase the terminal, which was operated by private contractors until 1995, when the Port took over management. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the shipping of logs and lumber declined further until the last log shipped from the International Terminal dock in May of 1999.
Port properties saw other unique developments in the 1990s. The Oregon Brewing Company occupied the west end of the South Beach Marina exhibition hall starting in 1991. Over time, that lease arrangement grew to include the 47,000-square-foot building headquarters of Rogue Ales and their restaurant, as well as a distillery and cooperage now located on Port property.
Recreation and tourism took another big leap forward in 1992, when the Oregon Coast Aquarium, constructed on Port of Newport property, opened its doors. As of early 2019, the Aquarium had welcomed more than 14 million visitors and is currently undertaking an $18 million capital campaign to further enhance the facility.
Tourism was increasingly important to the Port in 2006, when it completed a $3.2 million RV Park that included 92 spaces, store, operations building and registration/activity center on its South Beach campus. Around that same time, the boat ramp was moved and a multi-use area was created that allowed for a dry camping.
In 2006, the Port of Newport sought and received the financial support of Port District voters to help address a problem of significant environmental concern that also presented future opportunity. The two sunken World War II-era ships that served as the foundation of the International Terminal pier had become unstable and the release of contaminants became a real concern. The Port of Newport undertook removal of the vessels, as well as the necessary clean-up and remediation. The new design was intended to allow for increased access for commercial fishing boats and cargo ships. Work on the project commenced in 2010.
The reconstruction of the International Terminal wasn’t the only project of importance occupying the Port Commission in the early part of the 21st century. In 2007, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began scouting for a new home for Pacific operations. In 2008, interest was narrowed to four sites and in April of 2009, the Port of Newport was invited to submit a proposal.
Four months later, the Port of Newport was notified that it would become homeport for NOAA’s Marine Operations Center, which includes state of the art training and ship operations for six NOAA research and survey ships and provides administration, engineering, maintenance and logistical support to NOAA's entire Pacific fleet. With a budget of $38 million and a firm deadline for completion, Port officials worked with community stakeholders and others to not only deliver a spectacular new facility, but to do so earlier than anticipated. On April 29, 2011, officials from NOAA received the keys to their new Pacific home.
In August of 2013, International Terminal construction was completed. The multi-use facility was developed to accommodate a wide variety of users in conjunction with the Port’s mission of “retaining and creating business opportunities and increasing economic development for the Port and the community.” The project was so successful at resolving the environmental issues surrounding the site, the Port of Newport was awarded the national Phoenix Award – a prestigious award that honors individuals and groups working to solve critical environmental or social challenges and turn them into productive new uses and sustainable development projects.
In 2015, the Port paved that multi-use area located on the South Beach campus, which is still used for dry camping but is also known as the location of Newport’s Seafood and Wine Festival and the Loyalty Days carnival.
Today, the Port of Newport continues to be home to a thriving commercial fishing industry. In 2017, Newport ranked 12th in the nation for seafood landings, with 112 million pounds of seafood valued at $53 million attributed to the vessels that work in and around the Port of Newport.
The Port is actively pursuing a partner for cargo business at the International Terminal with a commitment to maximizing the return on investment made by the community for this mixed-use facility.
On the recreational side of the Port’s operations, the South Beach Marina and RV Park have seen steady increases in occupancy over the past three years and all projections indicate that trend should continue.
Port of Newport leaseholders continue to thrive as well. Rogue Ales continually develops and expands its offerings. The Oregon Coast Aquarium, as mentioned previously, is currently engaged in a capital campaign to fund extensive renovations and Hatfield Marine Science Center is currently in the construction phase of a new Marine Studies Building. NOAA Marine Operations Center – Pacific continues to be a source of great pride to the Newport community.
Since 1910, exciting things have been happening at the Port of Newport. Today, nearly 110 years later, the future continues to look promising.