While the City of Rainier has partnered with state and federal agencies over the years to find a long-term solution to end flooding from Fox Creek, Oregon’s allotment of American Relief Plan Act (ARPA) funds will trigger what officials hope will be the answer.
Rainier City Administrator Scott Jorgensen said the city will receive $100,000 in ARPA funding for a feasibility study of Fox Creek flooding and that study will strengthen Rainier’s case for additional funding for the project.
According to Jorgensen, the Oregon Department of Administrative Services will issue a $100,000 transfer into the city’s account to cover the costs of the study.
The City of Rainier and property owners along Fox Creek have been seeking solutions to the flooding, which has been the focus of debate, public meetings and frequent short-term fixes for several years.
The creek runs underground through the middle of Rainier and crosses beneath Highway 30. Following heavy rain events, water from the creek often floods homes and businesses in the area due to undersized culverts, according to Jorgensen.
A 500-foot culvert that carries the creek runs through a large portion of property owned by homeowners and businesses. The city owns a small section of the property on C Street, as well as a sewer line at the end of the culvert.
“(The culverts), they’re different sizes. I don’t think they’re necessarily connected all that well, and there’s really nowhere for the water to go,” Jorgensen said. “What a feasibility study would do is take a look at the current conditions of the creek and the best ways to mitigate those issues.”
Friends of Fox Creek (FFC) held their annual meeting Monday night, Nov. 15, where the most recent heavy rain storm and the risks of flooding associated with the rain were discussed.
“We dodged a bullet last night in Rainier,” FFC Board Member Darrell Whipple said. “We are encouraged that the city is moving forward on this issue. But of course, any delay means we face the risk of more flooding in the case of storms and conditions being ripe for high water flows.”
FFC was founded in 1991 with its mission to restore and enhance Fox Creek and Nice Creek in Rainier for the benefit of education, community recreation, wildlife habitat and flood protection.
The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Service also has a stake in the feasibility study, Jorgensen said, due to the dangers that Fox Creek flooding poses to wildlife.
“The fish passage issues are essentially what Fish and Wildlife wants to see as a way that the salmon can go from the Columbia and up Fox Creek so that they can do spawning,” Jorgensen said. “And the way it’s all laid out right now it’s very difficult for them to do that.”
One of the proposed long-term solutions Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole suggested in an article in The Chief in June 2019, is daylighting, which is the process of opening up buried watercourses and restoring them to more natural conditions, according to the online source, Wikipedia.
“Nothing would please be more than to have salmon flowing, swimming up that creek and to have it to where people can sit and eat lunch and watch them do it. I think that would be great,” Jorgensen said, of his aspirations for the project. “It’s just a matter of how to get there for a year and feasibility study is the key to the whole thing. It’s something I’m personally committed to.”
Whipple said he and his fellow board members are looking beyond their present concerns to the future of the Fox Creek ecosystem.
“Our society has (to) protect wildlife and in the case of Fox Creek, it’s a stewardship duty that we have to be sure we’re not harming wildlife as we maximize our own benefits,” Whipple said.