The Port of Astoria Commission has approved an application by WCT Marine and Construction that will grant the company local property tax breaks as it eyes development at Tongue Point.

The Astoria-based company will likely become the latest addition to the Clatsop Enterprise Zone. The agreement, under the long-term tax incentive, will give the company nearly $5.5 million in tax abatement over 15 years.

In order to receive the tax breaks, the company must get approval from the four enterprise zone sponsors. The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the application last week. It will go before Astoria and Warrenton in the coming weeks.

The Port Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the application.

“The Port of Astoria is supposed to be all about supporting economic development, and to me, this is the easiest possible exercise for the Port to be involved with that would help support what is proven to be very successful,” Dirk Rohne, the president of the Port Commission, said. “Understanding that there is a tremendous outlay and investment, and anything that can be done to help improve the successes of everyone’s best interests, I certainly fully support it.”

Enterprise zones are intended to help foster job opportunities, increase competitiveness and attract businesses to regions experiencing economic hardship. The Clatsop Enterprise Zone was established in 2015 and expanded in 2018 to include more areas across the county, including a section of North Tongue Point.

WCT Marine and Construction will be leasing a 34-acre shipyard at Tongue Point from Hyak Maritime. The development of the boatyard is expected to include the arrival of an all-electric, 1,500-ton mobile lift, which would allow the company to haul out, repair and maintain large boats. Hyak believes it is the only one of its kind in the country.

Robert Dorn, the CEO of Hyak, spoke at the Port meeting, expressing gratitude to commissioners for their continued support in the development at Tongue Point.

Dorn said the project recently reached large milestones in the permitting process. He predicted that the development of the boatyard and the arrival of the lift will be transformative.

“It’s really happening and a lot is going on,” he said. “With everybody’s help in the community, we’ve been able to almost get it fast-tracked.”

Hyak Maritime secured nearly $14 million from Connect Oregon to help cover the cost of the lift, $7 million from the state’s share of the federal American Rescue Plan Act and $350,000 from the Governor’s Strategic Reserve. The total investment in the project at Tongue Point reaches approximately $35 million with a projected in-service date in August 2024.

The Port previously managed North Tongue Point until Washington Development Co. sold it to Hyak in 2017.

“My thoughts a long time ago — I didn’t think the Port would ever be able to do anything with Tongue Point and I have always favored private ownership of that and I think it’s coming to reality now — I’m sure it is,” Commissioner James Campbell said.

Fort George Brewery, Scoular Co. and Buoy Beer Co. have previously received approvals to participate in the Clatsop Enterprise Zone. In the standard program, qualifying businesses can receive tax breaks for up to five years, but Fort George, like WCT Marine and Construction, was granted long-term incentives under the state’s rural enterprise zone, which offers tax breaks for new investments that meet more rigorous requirements.

Under conditions of the agreement, WCT Marine and Construction must meet a minimum investment of $12.5 million, employ a certain number of new full-time employees and provide wages of a particular percentage above the county’s average annual wage.

Erick Bengel contributed to this report.

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