Brad Witt

State Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie).

It’s been a busy month in House District 31, as families are settling back into their school routines, ODOT has implemented detours for travel into Portland, and road crews, public works departments and police are preparing for the coming winter travel conditions.

First, I want to remind motorists that ODOT is continuing the repair and replacement of a number of joints on the freeway ramps to I-405 causing the closure of US 30 to I-405 South through November 4. Folks can find the detour information at this link: https://www.oregon.gov/odot/projects/pages/project-details.aspx?project=19533. After this work is completed, the busy summer construction season will be ending, as we move into the winter travel season.

ODOT District 1 Manager Mark Buffington organized the annual Pre-Winter Highway Coordination Meeting, which was well attended by Columbia County first responders and many others from ODOT’s Region 2. This was a great meeting where strategies to deal with winter driving conditions were discussed.

ODOT will be deploying anti-icing chemicals in two shifts during the winter, with special emphasis during the night hours, to prepare the roads for the morning commute. De-icer is only effective when road conditions are dry.  If rain is in the forecast, crews will use sand focusing on corners, grades, bridges, and ramps. While not used in our region, ODOT does use salt on freeways, so if things get really icy, that’s another option.

We’ve had recent incidents in the district where major roads were closed for extended periods, and that could happen with weather conditions. If detour routes are needed, ODOT will reach out and request permission from county officials before accessing county roads.

Communication about road conditions is key, and ODOT is moving away from the AM radio broadcasts and will instead use fixed reader board for updates on road conditions, especially through mountain passes. There are also several moveable reader boards that can be positioned where needed.

The 2020 winter weather outlook was provided by Tyree Wilde, the NOAA Warning Coordination Meteorologist. The prediction is for Enso Neutral conditions, which means temperatures should be fall within normal ranges. Snow levels in the high mountains should be fairly normal, but they are predicting more low-level snow. Also, high impact storms, with heavy winds occurring more frequently in Enso Neutral years. While we may be in for some wild times this winter, after hearing the discussion and planning I am confident in our road departments, public works officials and safety officers that will be responding when needed.

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board is leading the effort to develop Oregon’s 100-year Water Vision, and has been holding community conversations throughout the state. Many areas of Oregon are known for clean and reliable water. This is due to favorable climate and infrastructure that was built in the 19th and 20th centuries to effectively store and move water from its source to where it is needed. In some areas of Oregon, the annual rainfall is 8-10 inches and this makes water used for drinking, agriculture and industry. In other areas, while there is 80-100 inches of rain, there are still seasonal shortages during the waning months of summer and early fall.

The goals of the 100-year Oregon Water Vision is to secure safe, accessible and healthy water for current and future Oregonians. Providing adequate and clean ground and surface water to support economic vitality for all Oregonians. Ensuring adequate cool, clean water for native fish and wildlife to thrive and healthy watershed that can store and filter water naturally. And developing resilient water supply and flood protection systems that can face natural hazards like earthquakes, floods and drought.

It’s a tall order, but meeting these goals, and providing an adequate water supply is necessary for the future health and well-being of Oregonians for generations to come. Governor Brown has made this a top priority, and many different state partners are working together on this effort. Success will mean a collaborative approach to the solution with the greatest social and environmental benefit, and adequate funding to complete the various projects.

Next month, legislators will return to Salem to get agency updates, and committee reports. We’ll also be working to finalize plans for the 2020 short session. Even when the Legislature is not in session, it is my honor to represent you and work on your behalf. If you have an issue or concern with a State agency, please contact my office.  We check the emails and phone messages regularly and will see what we can do to help.

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