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Oregon Lawmakers Seek Flood Study for Portland

Wyden, Merkley, Blumenauer, DeFazio, Bonamici, Schrader cite Army Corps concerns covering former Vanport area

Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Reps. Kurt Schrader, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio, and Suzanne Bonamici today strongly urged federal officials to support a flood protection feasibility study for Portland.

The Oregon lawmakers said their request comes as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has raised concerns about the prospects for a Portland flood.

“The Corps has recognized a substantial increase in the system’s risk profile and potential consequences from a major flood event making further investigation of the existing system an urgent need,” they wrote Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Assistant Army Secretary R.D. James.

The lawmakers asked that the Portland Metropolitan Flood Protection Project General Investigations Feasibility Study be included in the Army Corps’ work plan for the 2018 fiscal year. The letter notes that the area now protected by the Corps-designed and built 27-mile levee system was the site in 1948 of a catastrophic levee breach that killed 15 people and permanently displaced the entire Vanport community. 

“Now, an impressive coalition in the nearby community is actively working to ensure that risks are minimized and that history does not repeat itself along the second biggest river in the nation,” they wrote.  “Since the Vanport flood this system has performed well. However, the levees are showing significant signs of structural vulnerabilities during recent high water events including sloughing, boils and seepage.”

A copy of the entire letter is here.