Local state representatives have secured a $1.7 million state investment to support emergency repairs to a failing storm sewer line that serves downtown Hood River, I-84, and portions of the Hood River waterfront.

If the city is able to get some of the complex permitting done early, construction on the damaged section of the storm line could start as early as this fall.

The storm line, which carries stormwater from a portion of downtown Hood River, I-84 and a portion of the waterfront, was constructed of corrugated metal and placed 21-feet below the surface in the 1960s — at the same time the waterfront land itself was created with fill material dredged from the Columbia.

Corrugated metal pipe has a 50-year life expectancy and sediment has infiltrated the line, clogging it and causing structural failure, according to a joint press release from the Port and City of Hood River.

The damage to the storm line was first discovered when a small sinkhole was reported near the Hood River Distillers building in early 2018, said Michael McElwee, executive director for the Port of Hood River.

“It’s definitely beyond its useful life and it needs to be replaced,” said McElwee.

(The sinkhole has been backfilled with gravel, and it has stabilized since early spring, McElwee said.)

The total project will relocate the entire storm line and bring the storm drainage system into correct operation, according to the press release, and will take several years to complete. 

The grant completely funds the first phase of the project: Relocating the damaged section of the storm line.

 “The $1.7 million was just an incredible thing for a community of our size to have secured,” said City Manager Rachael Fuller.

State Rep. Anna Williams (D) and Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R) secured funding from the Oregon Legislature “at the urging of port and city officials challenged to find funding for the emergency repair in already strained public infrastructure budgets,” said the press release.

Said Hood River Mayor Paul Blackburn, “In Hood River, we are so fortunate to have steadfast support from our state and local leaders. In addition to our collaborative local team, I applaud the efforts of Rep. Anna Williams and Sen. Chuck Thomsen to prioritize this essential local project. On behalf of the community of Hood River, thank you.”

The bill, House Bill 5030, authorizes the state treasurer “to issue lottery bonds in an amount that produces $1.7 million in net proceeds … to be transferred to the Oregon Business Development Department Distributions Fund … for distribution to the City of Hood River for replacement of the Hood River Waterfront storm line,” said the press release.

Williams, now completing her first year in the Oregon legislature, said, “It was a pleasure to secure the funding Hood River needs from the Ways and Means Committee. Given the risk the collapsed storm drain poses to our stormwater system, and the benefits that the Hood River community brings to Oregon overall, it was essential for the state to step in and help.”

Thomsen, who has served in the Oregon legislature since 2010, said, “This is a very important project for all of Hood River that directly affects local businesses like the Hood River Distillers. It was fortunate that I serve on the Capital Construction Subcommittee and the team there immediately understood the urgency of the need.”

Both representatives also thanked Gov. Kate Brown and her staff, according to the press release.

The bill has been signed by both the senate president and the speaker of the house, said the press release, and the governor has 90 days from the date of passage to sign or make changes.

Funding has not yet been secured for the remainder of the $5 million project, said Fuller, but the city is considering a variety of options, including potential Urban Renewal Funding or loans from the state.

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