Oregon Coast Alliance Newsletter
A Useless Dam and An Unnecessary Powerline
What Shall Brookings Do with Ferry Creek Dam?   
Chetco River near Mouth of Ferry Creek. Courtesy ORCA
Brookings built a dam on Ferry Creek, a tributary of the Chetco, in the 1960s. The reservoir was used occasionally as a water source until the 1970s, and has  been  neglected  since  then. But in  October 2015 the Water Resources Department inspected  the dam  and declared  it unsafe, mainly due to  problems with the concrete spillway,  which is  too narrow to hold floodwaters,  and the conduit pipes in the dam,  which  risk  high-pressure leakage and severe internal  erosion. This  in turn can result in rapid dam failure. WRD rate the dam "Unsatisfactory" and notified Brookings that major rehabilitation or removal is required. If the dam failed, it would probably close North Bank Chetco Road for a significant period of time, as well as dump major amounts of sediment into the Chetco.

Brookings estimates dam removal would cost about $2.1 million; repairing the dam, about $418,000; removing the existing dam and replacing it with another, $3.2 million. So what is the city doing? They have applied to WRD for a feasibility study grant, asking for $72,500 of a $145,000 total  price tag  to study how best to rehabilitate the existing dam. They want to use it as a backup water supply, though admitting "the reservoir is not needed at this time for regular or continual use." The city developed a Redundant Water Supply Plan in 2015, which included putting Ferry Creek reservoir back in service, and tried to get federal Disaster Resiliency funding. The application was turned down.

In its WRD application, the City dismisses the option of removing the dam in a single sentence, as the alternative course of action -- no analysis or even exploration of the option. ORCA encourages Brookings to have a robust discussion about the alternatives. Public monies should not be spent solely to help Brookings figure out how to continue augmenting its backup water supply. A state-funded feasibility study that does not look at the alternatives in an unbiased way, and calculate the benefits of each, is a poor bargain for taxpayers.

An option that restores Ferry Creek to health would benefit Brookings-area residents most in the long run. Removal of the dam would end the warm-water reservoir it creates, and restore Ferry Creek's natural flows. The dam itself is not a fish passage barrier, being on a steep part of the creek above natural fish passage barriers, but the lower parts of the creek are salmonid spawning habitat, and would benefit greatly from Ferry Creek in its natural state. Unfortunately that lower stream reach is culverted and ditched, especially on the Mahar Tribble property, currently slated for development. An alternative that seeks public-private partnerships to remove the culverts, restore the lower spawning areas and  remove  the dam would add to the Chetco's cold clear water and provide salmon unimpeded spawning grounds on Ferry Creek. A dam and reservoir are not necessary for water withdrawal, should Brookings ever need to exercise its existing water rights to Ferry Creek. 

Brookings needs to start a straightforward discussion with stakeholders to seriously explore the option of removing the dam and designing a larger restoration plan that would return Ferry Creek to being the  pristine  tributary it once was. ORCA will continue to advocate for such an outcome.

Tillamook PUD Starts Advocating for the Oceanside Transmission Line  
TPUD Proposed Oceanside Transmission Line Route. Courtesy TPUD      
Tillamook People's Utility District continues on its path of trying to get the Oceanside Transmission Line permitted. They first published their final route selection, and now have begun discussions with the Port of Tillamook Bay. A portion of the chosen route parallels the Port's railroad, and PUD is interested in  an easement for  use of the right-of-way for the line. According to their current fee schedule, the Port charges $4,500 annually for placement of a utility tower with a footprint of less than 130 square feet.  The OTL would have nearly two dozen poles crossing Port property, adding up to around $65,000 annually just for the fees. Curiously, at a recent Port Commission meeting whose agenda included an item on PUD's easement request, nobody from PUD was present at the meeting to discuss it or answer questions.

Why should PUD customers and taxpayers pay for the Oceanside Transmission Line, including the Port's fees, when the landowners whose  properties  the line would cross are adamantly opposed? Tillamook City Council recently received a petition opposing the line, signed by the vast majority of affected landowners.  In order to permit the line, PUD would thus be forced to use eminent domain, if they could meet the legal criteria for its use, which is very unlikely.

PUD's own data shows there is no need for this transmission line. Any needs for service reliability in the Oceanside area can be met by upgrading the existing distribution line or the Wilson River II substation. The landowners oppose it. This is a People's Utility District, at least in name; but PUD is not yet listening to the people who would be affected by the line. Nor are they exploring the less damaging alternatives. ORCA hopes they will begin that process soon, and avoid a costly, longterm fight.

The Legislature in Session
Oregon State Capitol. Courtesy M.O. Stevens 
The Legislature is in full swing now, and legislators are discussing a plethora of good, bad and mediocre bills. Among the bills ORCA cares about are several working their way through the process. The bill to set a framework in place to control suction-dredge gold mining in our salmon rivers has had hearings and is going through amendments. A trustland transfer bill to set up a means of transferring Common School Fund lands into conservation is also moving through the legislature. Washington has such a program and has used it successfully for years. Having something similar in Oregon might benefit the Elliott situation, but would definitely benefit thousands of acres of "under-performing" Common School Fund lands as well, both in western Oregon and rangelands in eastern Oregon.

There are also bills we, and the Oregon Conservation Network of which ORCA is a member, are watching closely, relating to LUBA appeal fees, allowing new houses on farmland, and many others. If there are opportunities for testimony, we post it on our Facebook page. Do you not participate in ORCA's Facebook page? Please consider doing so! It can be found here

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Contact Executive Director Cameron La Follette by  email
or phone: 503-391-0210
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