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

Jun 3, 2019

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.

Upper Big Creek Dam
Credit Rachael McDonald

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.

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

“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.

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