RAINIER, Ore. — A feasibility study for the undersized Fox Creek culvert will move forward, after it was awarded federal American Rescue Plan Act funding on Friday.
Fox Creek has flooded three times in recent years, most recently in February 2019, which damaged adjacent properties. The culvert, which carries the creek under C Street and Highway 30, backs up in heavy rains, causing floodwaters to wash across the properties of an RV Center, Riverside Church, Grocery Outlet, a restaurant and the highway itself.
Local property owners asked the City Council in late 2019 to take action, but Mayor Jerry Cole said the project had to be done in partnership with other entities, as the culvert was originally a private project and most of the land it crosses is private. The city paid several thousand dollars to install an alarm system in the culvert so the city could alert landowners if water levels began to rise.
Since then, the city and landowners have been working toward a solution, but the funding needed to do studies for the problem was a roadblock. In February 2020, the city received a hydraulics study by Murraysmith, a consulting firm with Portland offices, that concluded the culvert that carries the creek through downtown can’t handle a 10-year storm, one with a 10% chance of occurrence in any given year.
The February 2019 storm was a 10-year event, according to the study.
The culvert is 650 feet long and ranges in diameter from 66 inches to 84 inches. The study found at least 100 feet would need to be replaced, if not the entire length of the culvert. Any city action will have to be coordinated with the Oregon Department of Transportation, which owns and maintains a box culvert that carries Fox Creek under Highway 30.
The entire culvert would have to be seven feet wide to handle a 100-year storm, one with a 1% annual chance of occurrence, according to Murraysmith. Replacing a narrow section under C Street alone with a six-foot pipe would only handle a 10-year-storm, the firm estimated. There also is the question of salmon passage upstream to address.
A feasibility study will help stakeholders decide the best fix for the creek. Rainier City Administrator Scott Jorgensen worked with Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) to secure the roughly $100,000 in funding, which is part of the $1.4 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds that are to be distributed among the state’s 90 legislative districts.
Witt said in a press release he was pleased he was able to help the city with the funding request.
“This is a longstanding need that we were able to fulfill with assistance from the federal government,” Witt said.
Jorgensen said Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) also helped ensure Rainier’s needs were heard in the statehouse. Johnson said in a city press release that she was glad she and Witt “were able to work collaboratively to make sure we covered all corners of the district with ARPA money.”
Jorgensen said Monday the city is finalizing a request for proposals and will then put the study out to bid. Cole said “it’s long been a priority for the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and we look forward to getting started on this.”