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Governor Approves Funding For Newport Dam Improvement

House Bill 5050, which contained numerous appropriations for economic development across the state, was passed by the legislature and was sent to Governor Kate Brown for her signature. Part of the bill included $4-million to the Water Resources Department for distribution to the city of Newport for planning, environmental permitting and design costs for replacement of the Big Creek Dams.

However the city of Newport received word that Governor Brown had intentions to veto the section of the bill that would authorize funding to Newport for the dam replacement project. Monday August 5th during the Newport City Council meeting the council discussed the situation and authorized a letter to be sent to Governor Brown regarding the importance of the funding for the future of the cities water supply.

State Representative David Gomberg was at the city council meeting Monday to explaining that he had heard from the Governor's office that she was planning to veto, four line items in House Bill 5050 that would allocate the money for the dam project in Newport. Her explanation was that she wanted to fund a study project in the state to create an overall prioritization of vulnerable dam projects across the state. The Legislature did not fund that ask, but instead approved the one project for Newport.

The State Water Resources Department however already conducted a study of vulnerable dams spending almost a half a million on the study and found the Big Creek dam project was second in the state for critical projects. Representative Gomberg stated "I am disappointed because unlike other projects the Newport project is ready to go. I am also disappointed because the money from the state was going to be the first of other grant funding that would be coming through to move the project forward." Any delay in funding Gomberg said could set the project back and affect additional funding requests.

Mr. Gomberg met with the Governor this last week with letters of support from not only the Newport City Council but also from the coastal caucus showing the importance of funding this project. In a letter to Secretary of State Bev Clarno, Governor Brown stated that she heard a great deal of support for this project from the city of Newport and surrounding communities. It was pointed out that the city is looking to partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for an additional $15 million in federal support for this project, which Governor Brown said her veto could potentially impede these efforts.

As a result the Governor did not veto the Big Creek Dam project funding and appointed a dam safety task force, with Mayor Dean Sawyer appointed as the first member. Members of the Legislature will also be asked to be part of the task force, which will work to develop funding mechanisms for for all of Oregon's high risk dams. She will be asking the legislature to approve funding for this task force in the short legislative session in February 2020.

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