Photo courtesy of the city of Newport.

Oregon dam project receives $4 million for design phase

September 6, 2023

Oregon – If the Newport area were to experience an earthquake, two dams have an increasing chance of failure due to age and poor construction. A $4 million influx from state lottery funds will now pay for the design phase of the Big Creek Dam project, a replacement dam system. 

According to city officials, a new dam will be built higher than the existing dams and will hold more water than the current 400 million gallons, allowing for future water needs in the community. The current lower reservoir will be reduced or eliminated, and the existing upper dam will be lowered.

Some funding has already been secured. In 2022, Newport secured $60 million in federal funding from the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal year 2023, including the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) 2022. In addition, Newport received $14 million from the Oregon State Legislature in 2021. Further funding will need to be set in future budget cycles.

The current dams were built in 1951 and 1968 and constructed with compacted layers of soil and gravel, a common technique at the time. Weaknesses and susceptibility to earthquakes were identified as early as 2010. Dam failure could result in loss of life, property damage and loss of the only drinking water source for an indefinite period.

Over the coming months, citizens will likely see surveying and research activity. The design is expected to take several years.

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