It has been three months since we came together at the Gates Fire Hall to learn and strategize as a community regarding how to build resiliency in the Detroit and Santiam economy. Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron, Governor Kate Brown’s Regional Solutions team and I want to provide an update on what has been accomplished since our gathering in July. We want to thank all of you for participating and staying involved to serve, strengthen and invest in our community.
Back on July 20, 2016, your federal, state and local government partners went to see firsthand the effects of low water on small businesses up and down the Santiam Canyon, including the Detroit Lake Reservoir. Tourism, driven largely by boating and the capacity to moor boats at the marinas on the reservoir, is essential to Detroit Lake’s economic success. As we learned from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the water level in the reservoir during summer months is primarily dependent on timely spring rainfall. During summer months, stored water from dams in the system is released to maintain minimum flows in tributaries and provide a healthy water flow throughout the entire system. When spring delivers less than normal rainfall, the whole system, including the reservoir, is affected.
A range of suggested solutions were brought forward, including a potential revision of USACE’s assumptions and management authorities for the Willamette Basin’s dam system; which could be a very complicated, expensive and multi-year review. However, the owners of Detroit Marina and Kane’s Marina came to the table to propose a very thoughtful and doable solution that would assist them in keeping their docks open and boats accessible in lower water years. Their solution involves excavating the ground under the footprint of the marinas to allow the docks to float longer in lower water. As we all sat around the table, Commissioner Cameron, USACE, Oregon’s Department of State Lands (DSL), and I all agreed this was not only possible, but a very sustainable option. This plan has two benefits: first, it allows the marina owners’ business models to adapt when water levels are below viable levels; second, in the years when the reservoir level is closer to ideal, this extend the window when the marinas would be able to offer boat slips, effectively extending the boating season and increasing economic activity.
This project is long term, complex and costly. Currently, the marina owners are working through the permitting process from both the federal primary agency- USACE and the state primary department-DSL. Your federal and state officials are working hard to coordinate and shepherd this process to a successful conclusion. As of October 2016, the project received a “Business Oregon, Business Retention Service Grant” to hire a consultant to assist with obtaining permits, getting approval from other state departments and providing guidance on a strategic work plan to maximize business benefits.
We want to provide a current tentative timeline and, as with many decisions for small businesses, the marinas’ work schedule remains adaptable. We anticipate finalizing the permit process and having a clear work plan before the 2017 boating season begins. The marina owners are hoping to complete prep work by the spring of 2017 which includes: reinforcing road ways for heavy equipment, installing additional pilings and extending gang planks along with required dock services. This would put us on track to complete the project by the end of 2017 to early 2018, allowing for a large enough window to complete the necessary work safely. We will keep you updated as the timeline evolves.
Rural Oregon is often overlooked and been left behind in recovery efforts and benefits following the recent recession. It is community members like you who work hard to keep Oregon prosperous. Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron, Governor Kate Brown’s Regional Solutions team and I will continue to remain committed in our efforts to help the marina owners and the community strengthen the local economies. We look forward to keeping you updated in the months to come.
If you have any questions, please contact my Salem office at (503) 588-9100, the Governor at (503) 378-4582 or the Marion County Board of Commissioners at (503) 588-5212.
Member of Congress