Virtual Community Update on the US Army Corps of Engineers Portland Metro Levee System Feasibility Study
In 2018, the Portland metro area was awarded a fully funded US Army Corps of Engineers "New Start" Feasibility Study to evaluate the condition of our local 27-mile levee system and accompanying conveyance infrastructure that reduces the risk of flooding along the Columbia River from North Portland on the west out through Troutdale on the east.
After completing extensive evaluation of the infrastructure and future river conditions, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) published a draft Integrated Feasibility Report & Environmental Assessment for public comment in January 2020.
Following the public comment period, the Corps went through a process of refining the "Tentatively Selected Plan" (TSP) during which further technical analysis and refinements were made as the local Drainage Districts worked together with USACE to address comments received including community concerns to the extent possible and allowable under the guidelines established by USACE Policies and federal laws.
Now that the refinement process is nearing completion, you're invited to a virtual community update the evening of October 28th covering the decision making process; the Corps will provide information on the changes that have been made since the TSP was presented in January; and the local Drainage Districts share what comes next as they work with USACE and pursue various local efforts to meet federal safety standards and modernize the infrastructure that reduces the risk of flooding along the Columbia River in Multnomah County.
The October 2020 Community Update Meeting Presentation can be accessed on the USACE website..
ith BNA Board, MCDD and USACE
The Bridgeton Neighborhood Association board was invited by US Army Corps of Engineers to attend a Web-Ex presentation on the state of the Portland Metro Levee System feasibility study, resulting from the April 15 milestone meeting with their district management. We asked that the meeting be recorded and made available for public review, and are awaiting news of that. Representatives of MCDD and Portland City were also present on the call.
Broadly, the report is that the proposed “Tentatively Selected Plan #5” has been approved by HQ and the design will move forward to the next phase. They have a multitude of design revisions to consider, including technical concerns, as well as the livability issues that we raised, and expect that it will be a year before a revised plan is ready for presentation.
In the meantime, the board will remain in contact with the USACE to coordinate public outreach as the revised design develops. For instance, they have agreed to provide us with some “sketch” information by the beginning of June about how their thinking has evolved to accommodate our concerns. It is important to the neighborhood that we have access to their thought processes at this early stage so that we have opportunity to guide solutions favorably. Once we have this “sketch” package, we will share it with the community for feedback and comment. A follow up meeting will address those comments. Perhaps by then we can all meet in real life.
The Army Corps has begun to compile the public comments we submitted in January, and to address them as a FAQ section on their webpage. It is not fully developed and it could use some clearer organization. At present it is appended at the bottom of the existing cover page for the project and requires substantial scrolling to find. http://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/pmls/
Look for the heading: Clarification of concerns we have heard.
The scheduled walks of the levee that were postponed due to the coronavirus have still not been rescheduled. They are aware of the need for them and are anxious to get back to that as soon as they are permitted.
No matter how this goes, not everybody will be happy - we all have different tolerances for change. I am convinced at this point that the USACE wants the project to go through in a manner that leaves Bridgeton satisfied that our concerns were heard and addressed sincerely. Revised concept sketches will tell us something about that.
Below are the notes that Bridget Bayer took at the meeting.
Bridgeton Neighborhood Association
BNA Special Meeting - USACE Levee Update
April 28, 2020
Board members: Tom Hickey, Paul Wargnier, Bridget Bayer, Walter Valenta, Jon Peterson, Erik Molander
USACE: Laura Hicks, Valerie Ringold, ?
MCDD: Mark Wilcox, Karen Carillo
PEN 2: Leslie Sawyer, Val Humble
2. Current Actions – Next steps
3. Public Involvement Process
5. BNA Meeting Prep
1. Agency Decision
The local chapter of USACE met their first milestone to present their Tentative Selected Plan (TSP) at the Federal NW Division Meeting (Portland, Seattle, Walla Walla, Omaha). USACE actions are funded as they reach each milestone so they can now go forward with refinement.
The decision presented included concerns that need to be addressed like HTRW & neighborhood concerns.
HTRW - There were 25 Hazardous Toxic and Radioactive Waste (HTRW) but only three remain to be cleaned up to date. Two of the three are petroleum based (oil spills & crude oil) so are of less concern.
Neighborhood concerns were sorted into six categories; Public review process; Alternative selection; Natural resources & recreation; Design Project features; Neighborhood livability; Study authority; Other?
2. Current Actions – Next Steps
They will need to secure a FONSI “Finding of No Significant Impact” through soil testing for NEPA, OR DEQ and bio-opinion from National Marine Fisheries Service. Water quality considerations are of great concern to them. They do not want to impact endangered species in any way.
They must also go through several other reviews: Public, Legal, Policy, Interagency and Historic property.
Refinement of design and details will lead to a report with recommended plan – approx. one year from now.
They will release a sketch of refinement ideas by the end of May, beginning of June.
3. Public Involvement Process
USACE were commended for the model outreach they are doing for this project. The BNA Board will continue to ask for a wide range of involvement. PEN 2 Board members are our best resource to stay informed of this detailed process. Leslie Sawyer, long-time BNA Board member, is currently serving on the PEN 2 Board.
Partners from the community (40-Mile Loop, Parks & Rec, Metro) have not offered assistance or funding to help with amenities for enhanced recreation or design. USACE recommended that we ask potential partners to talk to MCDD to be involved in the process along the way.
Board members stressed that it is very important that neighbors and concerned citizens want to comment and give input along the way, before decisions are made.
4. USACE Website
The USACE will mainly keep the public updated on their website. It has been updated to include FAQ’s and more will be added as they come in. A full calendar on USACE website lists all public meetings available.
5. BNA Meeting Prep -
They are open to any kind of meeting the BNA chooses, is allowed, and safe. A meeting may occur online that is also projected on a series of YouTube streamed videos with experts explaining project details. Online meetings will be recorded and shared on the BNA website and USACE website whenever possible. Meetings to be set when information is updated and comments on specific issues are requested.
We asked for “posters” or some kind of printed materials to be posted on Bridgeton Road for those neighbors not online. The BNA has asked several property owners to display on covered outside properties.
Bridget Bayer, BNA Board Secretary
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.