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Enhancing the Resiliency of Newport’s Water Supply

Water is not only essential for our well-being but also the backbone of Newport’s local economy. From the thriving tourism industry to the bustling fishing sector, Newport’s economic lifeline is intrinsically tied to water.

Water is the essence of life, the linchpin of a thriving community, the success of future generations, and everything in between. Nestled in the heart of the central Oregon Coast, the City of Newport is home to over 10,700 year-round residents and attracts 2.5 million visitors annually. All of them depend on the city’s sole water supply, stored in the Big Creek Reservoirs. However, this lifeline faces a looming threat due to the vulnerable Big Creek Dams, which have been deemed “unsafe/potentially unsafe” by the Oregon State Dam Safety Engineer.

Decades ago, the Big Creek Dams were constructed using methods common at the time, which involved compacting successive layers of soil and gravel to form a core and placing more permeable materials on the upstream and downstream sides. Seismic events were not yet well understood, and the dams were not built to withstand them. Adding to the problem, the Upper Dam has active seepage through the spillway due to erosion over the years. Now, the City knows the dams are vulnerable, and a recent inspection confirmed the dire situation: the dams could liquefy and fail during an earthquake. 

The stakes are incredibly high. The failure of these dams could result in the loss of the city’s sole water supply. This catastrophe would not only jeopardize the lives of residents and visitors but also put Newport’s thriving economy at risk. 

Water is not only essential for our well-being but also the backbone of Newport’s local economy. From the thriving tourism industry to the bustling fishing sector, Newport’s economic lifeline is intrinsically tied to water. Without it, the city’s economy would come to a grinding halt, affecting livelihoods and businesses across the region. 

It’s hard to fathom life without a reliable water supply. Whether it’s the water that flows from the tap for a refreshing drink or the lifeblood of the local craft breweries that produce your favorite pint, the vulnerable Big Creek Dams are the only things guarding that water source. 

Suffice it to say that the bond between the Newport community and water runs deep. The city depends on a reliable and safe water supply for tourism, recreation, and everyday activities. 

To address this looming crisis, Newport has secured more than $20 million towards developing a solution that will not only safeguard the water supply but also make it earthquake-resistant. This forward-thinking initiative will also allow Newport to store more water, preparing the city for future population growth and ensuring water availability during droughts. 

The project is currently in the design phase, which will result in a more accurate cost estimate. However, the City anticipates the project’s total costs will exceed $120 million. This projected cost has risen over the years due to delays in securing project funding and the impact of inflation. Despite the challenges, Newport recognizes the immense importance of securing its water supply and is committed to this vital endeavor. 

In the face of a vulnerable water supply, the Big Creek Dams Project represents a beacon of hope for Newport, ensuring the resilience and sustainability of the community’s most precious resource. It is a testament to the City’s commitment to safeguarding Newport’s future, economy, and the well-being of all those who call Newport home.