When you run your own restaurant, no two days are ever the same. On a drizzly Wednesday in February, for example, Chantelle Hylton of Salmonberry Saloon in Wheeler, Oregon starts her morning driving to Netarts Bay where she picks up fresh oysters from two different producers. From there, she heads up the coast to her fishmonger at Garibaldi Landing on Tillamook Bay, examining the day’s catch before eventually deciding on rockfish caught that very morning. In need of seasonal vegetables, she then travels up the Nehalem River to Salmonberry Farm, where she grows specialty produce to supplement what she buys from neighboring Moon River Farm.
“If the health of our oceans and waterways were under threat, such as from an oil spill off the coast, a day like today wouldn’t even be possible,” remarks Chantelle. “Every single one of those businesses, and in turn our business, would completely shut down.”
The Salmonberry Saloon overlooks the Nehalem River, which opens up into Nehalem Bay and eventually, the ocean. Chantelle and her partner Patrick opened the seafood restaurant just under a year ago, fulfilling a shared lifelong dream. “Our intention is to use this place as a vessel to make beautiful, delicious food and work in community with local producers,” Chantelle explains. “Every day, I’m thankful that our lives and livelihoods are so inextricably tied to the ocean — that includes everyone we work with all along North Coast.”
Chantelle’s restaurant is just one of thousands of businesses along the Oregon coast that depend on a healthy ocean and clean, oil-free beaches for survival. If the federal government follows through on its intention to open more U.S. waters to drilling over the next five years, the threat of an oil spill off Nehalem’s shores could become a disastrous reality.
When she first heard about the federal proposal, Chantelle describes feeling heartbroken. She couldn’t imagine anything worse for the Pacific Northwest. “It’s unfathomable to think about how damaging this would be to our economy, to our community,” she says. “I think nearly everyone in our community opposes it, regardless of political affiliation.”
Chantelle goes on to explain the likelihood that, in the event of an oil spill, those working in the fishing, tourism and recreation industries—a large part of the community– would have to find an alternative way of living or move away entirely.
“As for the Salmonberry Saloon,” continues Chantelle. “We serve food that lives in the water. We serve food that grazes near the water. Our business simply can’t exist without a healthy, thriving ocean.”