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Federal Funding Comes Through For Newport Dam

On December 23, 2022, President Biden signed the James M. Inhofe National

Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023. This package of bills included the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2022. The authorization sets the stage to secure funding for essential water infrastructure modernization efforts across the nation, including an authorization of $60,000,000 for the City of Newport that can be used to fund the Big Creek Dam replacement project. This project would replace two seismically unstable earthen dams with a single concrete dam designed to survive a major seismic event.

The federal funding authorization for the Big Creek Dam was initially proposed by

former US Representative Kurt Schrader (D-5), and approved by the House

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chaired by former US Representative Peter

DeFazio (D-4) in July 2022. The funding provision for the City of Newport was not included

in the Senate version of the bill. A delegation from the city including Mayor Dean Sawyer,

Councilors Ryan Parker and CM Hall, City Manager, Spencer Nebel, and City Engineer,

Aaron Collette, along with State Representative David Gomberg traveled to Washington

D.C. to meet with US Senators Wyden and Merkley, and US Representatives Schrader

and DeFazio, and various committee staff to emphasize the critical nature of this funding

for the central coast of Oregon.

Through the efforts of Senators Merkley and Wyden, an agreement was reached between the leaders of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that included

an authorization for funding for the city’s Big Creek Dam Project. This recently adopted legislation will authorize future appropriations of funding for the Big Creek Dam. “The Congressional authorization of $60 million is a game changer for proceeding with the replacement of the Big Creek Dams,” stated Newport Mayor Dean Sawyer. Sawyer added, “we are grateful for US Representative Schrader’s advocacy to initially include this request in the WRDA reauthorization bill with support from US Representative DeFazio. We are very appreciative of the hard work of US Senators Wyden and Merkley to fight to include this authorization in the final bill approved by President Biden.”

This authorization will build upon $14 million in funding approved by the Oregon State

Legislature and Governor in the 2021 state legislative session through the leadership of

State Representative David Gomberg with support from State Senator Dick Anderson.

Gomberg stated that “the $14 million approved by the state was the impetus in securing

future federal funding, and allowed the city to proceed with critical planning phases of the

project.” He added that “this project is extremely important to the residents and visitors to

the area, as it is designed to secure a water source resilient to seismic activity.”

City Manager, Spencer Nebel reports that “the strong partnership between the city,

state and federal government will allow the city to replace two obsolete, seismically

unstable dams with a secure source of water for the future of Newport and the central

coast.” He added, “the dam problems were first discovered ten years ago. The city has

been grappling with various options to address this issue, and methods to finance this

critical improvement over the past decade. The funding from the state and federal

government is absolutely critical in order to proceed with a resilient solution that will safely

serve the central coast for generations to come.”

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