In the event of a major earthquake, getting recovery supplies to Clatskanie and other areas of Columbia County may well mean using the Scappoose Airpark (SIA).
Now, the Port of Columbia County has joined a study to ascertain how resilient the airpark would be in the event of a major disaster, such as the Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake
The study also seeks to determine how to make necessary improvements to ensure the airport is more resilient.
The Port approved an agreement with the State of Oregon through the Oregon Department of Aviation (ODA) for a grant for a resiliency study with the Critical Oregon Airport Relief (COAR) Program.
The port requested $112,000 for the study and was awarded 75 percent of that total by the ODA, according to port documents. The total awarded was $84,000, leaving a $28,000 required match for the port. The study would begin later in the year, and would take approximately one year to complete.
“We always focused on the airport as a key facility in the event of a major disruption where supplies and recovery efforts are conducted from that isolated island should Highway 30 and the Willamette River be closed,” Craig Allison, Property & Operation Manager for the port said.
The purpose of the study would be to see how resilient SIA would be in the event of an earthquake, what would make it survive and function should a major disaster occur, and find out what measures would be necessary to take and what those measures might cost in order to upgrade SIA to make it more resilient, Allison explained to the commissioners at the Port meeting.
Commissioners seemed in favor of the COAR grant, with some suggestions regarding funding of the project.
“This is a benefit not just to the Port. It’s actually a bigger benefit to the whole Columbia County,” Commissioner Chris Iverson said. “I am not opposed to this at all, but I’m just wondering if this cost should be shared by more than just the board.”
When asked for a suggestion on how that should occur, Iverson said that an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between the port and willing parties would be the best method. Iverson listed Scappoose, St. Helens, Columbia City and Clatskanie as cities that would benefit from the study.
Executive Director for the Port Doug Hayes agreed with Iverson’s comment, stating the runway would be marshaled for getting food, water and other necessities to Columbia County in the event of an incident.
Commissioner Larry Ericksen said he heard from experts who claimed as of now, the runway would no longer be available should the Cascade earthquake happen. Ericksen said he went to a meeting in St. Helens where experts from the Disaster Preparedness Group, a subsection of the state Department of Emergency Management, said the runway would no longer be viable after the Cascadia earthquake.
“They made a big issue about that,” Ericksen said.
The commissioners then unanimously approved the resolution of $84,000 for the resiliency study and $28,000 for the Port’s matching contribution.
The grant will guide future investment by the port as well as identify projects that might qualify for future grants in the program.