On the Waterfront

75th anniversary commemoration is set for Nov. 5

Port of Camas-Washougal 75th anniversary commemoration

When: Friday, Nov. 5

Where: Port office, 24 S. "A" St., Washougal

10 a.m. - Open House, with slide show and port memorabilia

11 a.m. - Commemoration ceremony, in Marina Park

Noon - Refreshments, mingling and mementos

Contact: 835-2196 or www.portcw.com

Port of Camas-Washougal 75th anniversary commemoration

When: Friday, Nov. 5

Where: Port office, 24 S. “A” St., Washougal

10 a.m. – Open House, with slide show and port memorabilia

11 a.m. – Commemoration ceremony, in Marina Park

Noon – Refreshments, mingling and mementos

Contact: 835-2196 or www.portcw.com

Greg Ermis has several very vivid memories of serving as the maintenance supervisor at the Port of Camas-Washougal. When he retired in 2008, he had been the longest-serving employee after working at the port for 30 years and six months.

Ermis remembers the snowfall in 1980 that caused about “half the marina” to collapse, and he recalls the flood of ’96.

“Those two weather events were monumental,” he said. “During both of those events it struck me as I was watching them, that I was watching a memory — like Mount St. Helens and 9-11 — those kind of events that you know you are going to remember.”

The snowfall 30 years ago damaged the “A” dock, “which included five old wood moorages left from at least two decades before,” according to Ermis.

“It was not surprising that the snow that fell took those down,” he said.

Ermis remembers receiving a phone call from then-Port General Manager Jack Israel just prior to midnight.

“Jack said ‘the marina is collapsing, get down here,'” Ermis said. “We tried to get on the roof to shovel. As we got ladders there, the marina started coming down. We pushed boats out and broke windshields to lower the clearance and get it from under the roof line of the moorage.

“We moved boats from the collapsing dock to the breakwater,” he added. “About five boats sank. They were in better shape than some of the boats that stayed afloat.”

The boats that sank were able to be dried out.

“Standing on the landing by Parker House [Restaurant], some lamented they had just taken the insurance off their boats,” Ermis said. “Other guys were trying to sell their boats for four or five years, and they said the insurance company just bought it. It was a difference in perspectives of those affected during economic hard times.

The flood of 1996 also occurred during the winter. During the first week of February, a foot an hour of rain followed about eight inches of snow and four inches of ice.

“When it melted, it was raining,” Ermis said. “The flood came – a foot an hour. An ordinary flood was 24 feet. It ended up at 27 1/2 feet.

“We put out the call to remove their boats,” he added “It went from more than 200 boats to 20 in 24 hours. Some dry docked by Riverside Marine. Walt [Guetter] and his team put them on pallets on the parking lot. Some took them home, to take the load off the pilings.”

The port shop doors had about 3 1/2 feet of water against them. The high water event also involved the dike in the industrial park as it started to “literally cave in,” according to Ermis.

An evacuation resulted in the Washougal fire and police departments temporarily relocating to Jemtegaard Middle School.

“We called the Corps of Engineers,” Ermis said. “They showed up and took control. Truckloads of rock were brought in by the Corps. It was scary. We were within 10 feet from the top of the dike. The water level and wind were starting to erode the sand dike.”

Public is invited to anniversary commemoration

Photos of these and other events will be available to view during the port’s 75th anniversary commemoration. An open house is planned for Friday, Nov. 5, starting at 10 a.m. at the port office, followed by a ceremony at 11 a.m., at Marina Park (weather permitting).

Mary Murphy, executive assistant at the port for 16 years, is looking forward to the commemoration.

“The 75th anniversary is quite a milestone,” she said. “I hope to see many old friends and new faces at the November 5th event.”

Murphy, a former legal secretary, said working at a public agency “has been fun, rewarding and a great fit – both personally and professionally.”

Jack Hardy, port communications manager, said planning for the anniversary has been rewarding and exciting.

“We’re taking a quick look back at how the port has changed in 75 years and a longer look ahead at the prosperity and opportunities of the future,” he said. “We’ve returned to the ‘Word At Our Door’ theme, once used regularly as a slogan by the port as a harbinger of better things to come.”

Memorabilia from the port, the cities of Camas and Washougal, a copy of the Post-Record and letters to the future from local schoolchildren will be put into a sealed time capsule-with the intent of opening it in 25 years during the port’s 100-year anniversary.

The sealed letters, written by fourth and fifth graders from Hellen Baller Elementary School in Camas, will be delivered to the port Friday.

“They are letters to the future – to themselves and the public who might read them in 2035,” Hardy said. “The content is about life today and what they imagine it will be like in 25 years.”

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