From small agricultural dikes to major urban levee systems, communities across Oregon are struggling to maintain aging flood safety infrastructure and make the improvements needed to comply with new federal safety standards put in place following Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy.
In 2015, the Oregon State Legislature took an important step to help these communities by creating a levee-related loan fund within the state’s economic development agency. Although the fund has proved immensely helpful to some jurisdictions, many have not been able to take advantage of the funding because they cannot afford to pay back a loan over time, even at the state’s modest interest rates. As a result, communities are leaving levee projects incomplete, leaving residents and businesses at higher risk.
To improve flood safety statewide, Levee Ready Columbia worked with Senator Betsy Johnson, Speaker Tina Kotek, Senator Lew Frederick, Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson, Senator Bill Hansell, Representative Chris Gorsek, and members of the Oregon Coastal Caucus, to introduce legislation to allow the state’s economic development agency to issue grants to support flood safety improvements around the state (Senate Bill 254) and to ensure there was funding available to make grants during the 2019-2021 biennium (Senate Bill 432).
Thanks to the leadership of these legislators, particularly Senator Betsy Johnson, the legislature ultimately incorporated the provisions from our legislative proposals into House Bill 5030, which prescribed the way lottery bonds will be used during the 2019-2021 biennium, including provisions to create a flood safety infrastructure grant program within Business Oregon and allocating a total of $15 million to the fund for the biennium.
We’re thrilled to see the State of Oregon continue to make positive strides to improve flood safety throughout the state and support communities struggling with aging flood safety infrastructure. Thank you so much to all the legislators and communities that contributed to the passage of this important legislation!