Portland city council members authorized $1.4 million in bonds to pay for a study of the levees along the south bank of the Columbia River on Wednesday. The study will focus on an 11-mile stretch of levees that protects industrial land and neighborhoods in North Portland.
Those levees failed to meet new, stricter national standards for flood protection that the Army Corps of Engineers adopted after Hurricane Katrina. Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said climate change is increasing the threat of floods, and that fixing the levees is more than just a matter of complying with federal standards.
“It’s because our airport and 2200 businesses and a bunch of city property are all affected.,” Hales said. “So this is a big deal.”
The area has seen flooding before. In 1948, a flood destroyed the Vanport neighborhood and killed 15 people. Local drainage districts say it could cost $100 million to repair and upgrade the levees to the standard the Army Corps of Engineers says is necessary to protect against a hundred-year flood. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber designated the Columbia river levee certification as an Oregon Solutions project last year.