COUNTY, PARTNERS PUSH AHEAD WITH 101 FLOODING PROJECT
The Oregon Department of Transportation may provide money for a proposed solution to the annual flooding problem on U.S. Highway 101 south of Seaside through its wetlands conservation program.
The project, spearheaded by Clatsop County with support from ODOT, the Port of Astoria and local cities, involves the removal of a berm along the nearby Necanicum River near Circle Creek Campground. The work was recommended by a hydrological consultant who says it should substantially reduce the incidence of flooding that occurs nearly every winter when heavy rains combine with high tides to send water over the roadway and cause traffic restrictions.
The project partners are planning the next steps, including drawing up detailed plans and obtaining permits, with the goal of launching the work in summer 2012.
In July Northwest Hydraulic Consultants of Seattle released a study, funded by the project partners and based on months of water-flow data and other information, recommending removal of the berm, at an estimated cost of $500,000. The structure, built in the 1960s along the west bank of the Necanicum, causes water to overtop the nearby highway by keeping high water in the river from spilling out onto the lower ground to the west, according to the study.
ODOT cannot spend money from its highway budget on the berm project because it does not directly involve the roadway itself. But the work may qualify for wetlands funding because the proposed solution will open up hundreds of acres of former pasture land to restoration.
At a meeting of project partners last week in Seaside, representatives from ODOT’s wetlands office explained that the adjacent 364 acres of land, currently owned by the North Coast Land Conservancy, can be added to the agency’s wetlands “bank” program, which maintains wetland areas around the state as mitigation for other wetland sites impacted by highway projects.
ODOT recently submitted a prospectus, a general outline of a Necanicum restoration project, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Oregon Department of State Lands for their review. A more detailed analysis, including plans for longterm stewardship of the site, will then follow. Both plans will be released for public comment.
In the meantime, Clatsop County plans to ask the consultant to prepare a scope-of-work document for the berm removal. The project partners will meet again in January.
ODOT Area 1 Manager Larry McKinley said the state’s Regional Solutions Team, which coordinates state agency resources in support of local community economic development efforts, could assist in the permitting process. He noted the Highway 101project is a key priority of Gov. John Kitzhaber.
Community Relations Coordinator