A knowledgeable neighbor responds to Nigel Jaquis, Willamette Week reporter, who wrote an article on Feb 12, 2020 Federal Officials Fear Devastating Floods. Though a good report and informative article, Mr. Jaquis misstated a few facts, pointed out by Brian. Below is the exchange. Great job all around including to Evyn Mitchell, Levee Ready Columbia Public Affairs & Communications Manager, who helped clarify with up to date maps and additional resources
FROM: Brian Stipak & Leslie Sawyer
TO: Nigel Jaquis, WW
I am speaking only for myself, since I was, but am no longer, on the governing board of the Bridgeton Neighborhood Association and on the governing board of Peninsula Drainage District #2.
However, I think that I can roughly represent some of the sentiment in the Bridgeton Neighborhood.
My responses to your points follow....
We in the Bridgeton Neighborhood are for, not against, improvements to the levees, including the levee in the Bridgeton Neighborhood. However, we want improvements made in a way that does not destroy the livability of the Bridgeton Neighborhood.
The railroad embankments that failed in 1948 are different structures than the levee in the Bridgeton area. The Bridgeton levee was built by the USACE, and the railroad embankments were built by the railroad. However, for exact information on this I recommend going to the Multnomah County Drainage District.
Regarding your quote from the USACE report, we just want you to understand that overtopping of the Pen 2 levee in the Bridgeton area did NOT happen in 1948, and has NEVER happened (That is where your February 12 article made an error). That does not mean that it could not happen. There can always be higher water conditions, and we can always propose to build to protect against yet higher water conditions. What the USACE report section that you quoted below is saying is that 1) If the cross levees failed like they did in 1948, and 2) if the Pen 2 levee failed - which it did NOT do in 1948 - then the flooding result would be bad. I think the sentiment in the Bridgeton Neighborhood supports improving the levee in the Bridgeton Neighborhood, including improving several points that are known weaknesses, but not destroying the livability of our neighborhood by adding a concrete barrier on top of the levee.
P.S. 1: Re the source of the flood water (Willamette River vs. Columbia), that was an issue Leslie Sawyer raised in her first message to you, but since the levee failure points are near the confluence of the Willamette and the Columbia, it seems to me like an irrelevant distinction.
P.S. 2: Evyn Mitchell from MCDD I believe has provided you a better quality map that shows the 1948 levee breaches - the 2 breaches that caused the 1948 Vanport flooding, that I tried to show in my crude map that I provided, plus 2 breaches in the cross levee further to the east.
Thanks again for your interest in this issue affecting our neighborhood.
448 N Bridgeton Rd
On Tue, Feb 18, 2020 at 9:08 PM Brian Stipak <email@example.com> wrote:
This is Leslie Sawyer following up on our earlier correspondence about your February 12 Willamette Week article, and writing in cooperation with Brian Stipak, a past member of the Peninsula Drainage District #2 governing board, which has jurisdiction for the Bridgeton area.
The point I (Leslie) was trying to make earlier, and we want to make now, is that the 1948 Vanport Flood had nothing to do with the levee in Bridgeton. The Bridgeton levee did not fail in 1948. Adding to the height of the Bridgeton levee, or making any other improvements to the Bridgeton levee, would have made no difference in preventing the 1948 flood.
We went to MCDD this afternoon and got a map showing the 2 breech locations that flooded Vanport in 1948. The map is not very good for this purpose, but we have attached it and annotated it.
As the map shows, the main breech was in the railroad embankment on the west side of Vanport (just east of what is now North Portland Road). That breech allowed high water in the Smith/Bybee Lakes area to flood into Vanport. That water came from the Willamette River and from the Columbia River. The second breech occurred in the levee north of the Columbia Slough, at the southeast corner of Vanport.
For more information you can contact Karen Carrillo at MCDD (941-804-0688 , firstname.lastname@example.org). Karen was not available today or we probably could have obtained a better map to send you.
Again, the main point is that the levee in the Bridgeton area did NOT fail in 1948. The two failure points were far away from the Bridgeton area and were failures of different water containment structures. Raising the height of the Bridgeton levee, or any other improvements to the Bridgeton levee, would have in no way prevented the 1948 flood disaster.
Could you please correct the mistake in your February 12 article. You wrote: “Vanport, just southwest of Bridgeton, was completely wiped out in 1948 when the Columbia spilled over the levee Bridgeton is built on...” What you wrote is wrong; water did not spill over the Bridgeton levee.
Again, WHAT YOU WROTE IS WRONG, seriously wrong.
As we explained above, the Bridgeton levee never failed or flooded over in 1948. The two failure points were miles away on completely different water containment structures. The currently proposed improvements for the levee in the Bridgeton neighborhood would have had no effect in preventing the 1948 flood.
Please correct the error in your article blaming the 1948 flood on the levee in the Bridgeton area.
Again, you can contact the Multnomah County Drainage District to verify this information that we are giving you.
Thanks for your careful attention to fixing this error in your February 12 article.
55 NE Bridgeton Rd, Slip #8
COMMENT DEADLINE: February 14, 2020
It is vital that Bridgeton neighbors comment on the Army Corps USACE Portland Metro Levee System Feasibility Study. The BNA desires strong neighborhood involvement—please comment today!
Send comments to:
Project manager, Laura Hicks
Mail to: P.O. Box 2946, Portland, OR 97208-2946
COMMENTS: Tell USACE what's important to you!
I would like the USACE to focus on improving the safety of our Levee system as well as to:
Alt 4 meets plan objectives with no 4’-5’ wall on Bridgeton
Use the Bridgeton Plan to guide design improvements
Improve the walkability of our neighborhood
Connect to 40-Mile loop completely
Maintain parking on the north side overburden
Protect and improve access to the river
Add redundancy to slough pumps
Bury utility wires during construction
Compensate owners for personal property
More comments from the full BNA response document here: http://www.livebridgeton.com/levee.html
On January 7, 2020 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a report detailing their proposed $158M plan to upgrade the Columbia River levee system along the Oregon waterfront from the Sandy River to nearly Smith & Bybee Lakes. As climate change confronts us, the risk of severe flooding from extreme weather events increases substantially. This threat is in direct conflict with our growing city and its reliance on the infrastructure of the airport and industry in the bottomlands, and creates an ever increasing risk for the growing population in this area. Our defenses against flooding are inadequate, and levee upgrades are welcome and necessary.
However, as residents along the waterfront - living atop, behind, and in front of the levee, the citizens of Bridgeton see our community put at an existential risk by this proposal.
Here are links to further information to keep informed of the latest in this discussion.