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