Can Newport replace it’s primary source of water – Big Creek Dam – and not have it destroyed by the ever-looming Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake? Newport Public Works Director Tim Gross and a team of engineers based in Seattle say YES. But it’ll probably cost just over $70 million dollars to build. About $7,000 for every man, woman and child that lives in Newport. Gross says the city could float a bond for the first $20 million but the other $50 million will have to come from state and federal grants. And that’s going to be a steep hill to climb. Gross says it can be done but it’s going to take a lot to convince our state and federal lawmakers to approve the funding.
Both Big Creek dams are old. They’d both fail during a subduction zone earthquake – the most powerful category of earthquakes on the planet. Gross and his consultants are convinced a new dam can be constructed to withstand such a colossal assault by Mother Nature.
Part of the dam’s design is to raise the height of the dam so that it can store more water during the wet season so it doesn’t have to draw so much water from the Siletz River during the summer. And that would lessen the stress on the Siletz River fishery – no small issue.
Newport city councilors, Tim Gross and a small army of project engineers wrapped up their first review of the project Monday at City Hall. They say that final design of the dam is a ways off but in the meantime a big public information campaign with an outreach effort to state and federal lawmakers will now ramp up. He says the project cost is daunting but no less necessary because if the dam is not replaced, the eventual subduction zone earthquake will cause it to collapse inflicting unthinkable physical, economic and financial devastation downstream.
The next big meeting of the minds on all this is set for February 4th where more details on dam design and possible cost saving options will be laid out. In no small way, the very future of Newport and surrounding areas rely on the construction of the new dam. And as much as the project will cost, it’s far less expensive than desalinization of sea water, according to Gross. Gross stated emphatically that the dam should be the number one infrastructure priority on the Central Coast.