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Legislature Funds Newport’s Big Creek Dam Project

Rachael McDonald

Officials in Newport say newly-approved state funding will allow preliminary work on the overhaul of the dams that supply the city’s drinking water.



The Big Creek dams hold back a reservoir just east of Newport that functions as the city’s sole water supply. They're considered at risk of failure from even a relatively minor earthquake.


“If Newport ends up losing this dam due to a seismic event or other failures, it’s going to be years before this community can recover," said Newport City Manager Spencer Nebel.


The city has been trying for years to secure funding for their replacement. In the closing days of the legislative session, Oregon lawmakers approved $14 million for design and planning work.


"This will allow us to begin some of the auxilliary things that we need to do, including road construction," said Nebel. The roadwork is needed to build an access route for construction and service vehicles.


"So it was certainly a very much needed source of revenue from the state in order to keep this project moving forward to address the seismic concerns that we have with the two dams," he said.


Actual construction won’t begin for several years and will cost some $80 million. Nebel said the city is hoping for federal funding to help with the project.


"Putting the entire burden of the $80 million on one community our size is a real challenge, financially," he said.


Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December 2018 and became News Director in March 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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