August 2020 — Looking at the three main sectors of activity — the grain, fuel, and container-on-barge terminals — Kim B. Puzey, General Manager for the Port of Umatilla, reported that both the grain and fuel terminals were operating normally. There has also been no change for the container-on-barge terminal, however Puzey noted that, since the loss of container ships calling on Portland, the yard has been serving as a container yard for the overflow of containers from local food processors since 2016.
Looking at other areas of the Port, Puzey is expecting to receive final approval soon to incorporate an additional 1,000 acres into inventory following the decommissioning of the old Umatilla Chemical Depot, once the repository for 11 per cent of the chemical and biological agents the U.S. had in reserve during the Cold War. The process has taken 26 years and Puzey is looking forward to developing infrastructure for industrial use in the future.
Despite COVID-19 having a “brutal” impact on small, commercial businesses in and around the Umatilla area, Puzey said that most of the Port’s industrial clients have not been as affected. “As for port operations,” he noted, “while the office is closed to walk-in traffic, staff have been able to maintain productivity by working remotely and/or scheduling office hours that avoid more than two people in the office at once.”
The Port of Umatilla is in the fortunate position of having solid financial reserves, a tax base that has been increasing, and some property sales — allowing Puzey to continue implementing the Port’s mandate of increasing trade and diversifying the economy. “While it’s too difficult to forecast the future, we are in a very good place,” he said, adding that he was doubtful there would be any appropriations for infrastructure in the next legislative session or even the next several.