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New Newport dam clears a big hurdle

lower Big Creek dam
Karen Richards
Lower Big Creek Dam, with part of Newport's water treatment plant visible on the right.

Leaders from the City of Newport have helped secure $60 million to rebuild its water infrastructure. They’ve known for over a decade the two earthen Big Creek dams would not survive a seismic event.

In 2021, the Oregon legislature awarded $14 million for preliminary work on a new concrete dam. But the city needed to cover the rest of the $80 million projected cost.

City Manager Spencer Nebel told KLCC he and other leaders traveled to Washington D.C. and successfully advocated for the project to be part of the Water Resources Development Act, signed into law late last month. “The one challenge that we have is the federal action is an authorization," he said, "We’re going have to go through appropriation processes in individual fiscal years, based on the need of funding, to do this project … unlike the state appropriation, which is being administered as a grant.”

Nebel said another challenge is the initial estimate was made several years ago, so costs have likely risen. He said the city is grateful for the help from Oregon’s legislators. The city will spend the next two to three years securing permits and designing the dam.

upper Big Creek dam
Karen Richards
Upper Big Creek dam

Karen Richards has been a KLCC reporter since the fall of 2012.
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