Governor Approves Newport Dam Money

Gov. Brown had said she planned to veto $4 million for the city of Newport to start planning a dam replacement project, but she has since reversed course.

“I understand their efforts to partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to secure up to $15 million in federal support for this project,” Brown wrote in her signing letter, “and I am concerned that my veto would significantly impede these efforts.”

The project could ultimately cost more than $70 million, and it would replace the two current Big Creek Dams with one dam. The two dams are anticipated to fail in the event of a 9.0 or greater magnitude earthquake.

Newport’s City Council had drafted a letter to Brown asking her to reconsider, and there was interest from Oregon’s congressional delegation.

OPB reports a number of state lawmakers have expressed relief that Brown reconsidered.

“I am pleased and relieved with the news,” said state Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, who had urged Brown not to veto money for Newport’s dam project. “I am grateful that the governor really took a hard look at our situation in Newport.”

According to reporting from the Newport News Times, Brown had asked lawmakers to fund a review for all of Oregon’s 72 dams with a high hazard rating. Fifteen of them are in poor condition, and at least one state agency does not have the manpower or funding to study which ones are most dangerous. According to the paper, Brown had hoped legislators would fund both the dam study for Newport, and a dam safety task force – which they did not.

According to OPB, Brown will now allow the Newport dam study funding, and will also appoint a dam safety task force to help identify funding to address all the state’s high hazard dams.

– By Andy Thompson