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Public Can Get a First-Hand Look At Newport’s High-Hazard Dams

Rachael McDonald

2 of the 3 most high-hazard dams in Oregon are in Newport. This week, the public can learn more about the Upper and Lower Big Creek Dams in a public tour.

The Big Creek reservoir holds Newport’s water supply. Its dams, built in the 1950s, were found to be seismically deficient in 2011. Newport is right in the middle of the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Public Works Director Tim Gross says the dams would very likely fail in an earthquake.

Credit Rachael McDonald
Tim Gross is Newport's City Engineer and Public Works Director. He'll lead a tour of the Big Creek Dams on Wednesday.

“And so, there’s two implications of that, obviously, there’s the life and safety of the people downstream, but, if the dams fail in a moderate earthquake event, we don’t have the ability to provide water to the citizens of Newport or industry for the indefinite future.”

The proposal is to replace the earthen dams with one concrete dam designed to be seismically resilient. Gross says they’ve asked the legislature for $10 million to fund the design process. The projected overall price tag for the project is between $61 and $75 million.

Tim Gross will lead a tour of the Upper and Lower Big Creek Dams on Wednesday from 1 to 3 p.m.  The tour departs from Newport’s Water Treatment Plant.

More info: saveoursupplynewport.com

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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