Newport spent several years exploring potential solutions, including the potential of a regional solution called the Rocky Creek Reservoir, but ultimately has decided to replace the Big Creek Dams, and the city has progressed to a preliminary engineering design and cost estimate.
Our community is at risk today because the dams on the reservoirs that hold our city’s water supply may not withstand even a minor earthquake. The risk to lives and our economy is so great that the State Dam Safety Engineer has listed Newport’s Big Creek Dams as two of the three most critical, high-hazard dams in Oregon. If we do not act to save our water supply, state regulators will make the city lower the water level behind the dams. That would make the dams safer, but having less water could mean we’d have to ration water supplies.
In a word, the cost of this project is significant, and the city must get federal and state funding so that we minimize the financial burden the project could place on residents and businesses. To ensure we can invest in this project, we are reviewing our city’s current revenue sources and analyzing the timing and impact on our residents from an affordability standpoint.
At some point in the future the dams will fail, and all of our engineering studies show that we would lose our water supply, but even more importantly, lives could be lost as well. The result would be a challenge that few communities could rise to—an indefinite period without water supply would mean economic devastation, and the tragedy of what could be would redefine our community.
We know that our residents and businesses cannot afford to pay for this project alone—we need partners and assistance from our state and federal governments. To pay for the Big Creek Dams Project we are aggressively pursuing all available state and federal funding sources. We’ve used this strategy on other projects, and it works. Our need for this project is so great that there is a potential to get a portion of the funding from sources other than our residents and businesses. To be eligible for federal and state funding, part of the money we need will have to come from within our city borders in the form of bonds that are paid for by tax increases and/or water rate increases.
Sustaining the environment is a critical component of our solution. We can accomplish our water supply goals while enhancing natural habitat and lessening our reliance on already stressed water resources.