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Steady rains edge SH toward flood conditions


April 10, 2019

A CREEK on Pleasant Valley Road, swells what normally is a small pond to multiple times its normal size,

Other than a brief break March 3, the rain fell last week at about a half inch per day, and then it really came down over the weekend, closing roads around Linn County, raising the lakes to their full pools and pushing Mid-Valley rivers toward their flood stages.

During a 48-hour period beginning at about 4 a.m. Saturday and ending at about 4 a.m. Monday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recorded an even 4 inches of rainfall at Foster Dam. Saturday saw 1.89 inches, and 2.21 inches fell Sunday.

Public Works Director Greg Springman said the South Santiam River at Pleasant Valley Boat Ramp had reached nearly to the nearby platform overlooking the river. Foster Lake was at 636.37 feet above sea level, its full pool. Green Peter Reservoir was at 1,008.32 feet, just about 2 feet shy of full pool.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Portland District is increasing controlled water releases at most Willamette Valley dams as rain and melting snows are projected to fill reservoirs to near 100% capacity in the coming days.

The flows include water release at historic rates from Dorena Reservoir, and the Corps has worked in partnership with Lane County Emergency Management, which has issued evacuation notices for those in the Row River Floodplain and the Coast Fork Floodplain of the Willamette River.

"We are managing flows in a way to protect the downstream public from flood to the extent we are able, and to maintain space in the reservoirs to avoid uncontrollable releases," said Ross Hiner, Portland District Dam Safety Program Manager.

"However, inflows are so high that we are having to increase our releases to minimize the overall flooding risk."

"We are currently experiencing an atmospheric river coupled with melting snow," said Salina Hart, Portland District Chief of Reservoir Regulation and Water Quality.

The Willamette River was expected to be at flood stage through the middle of the week at several gauges, including Goshen and on on the main stem at Harrisburg and Albany.

Issues in Sweet Home have been minor.

"Everything's right at the line," said Police Chief Jeff Lynn. "I'm not seeing any flooding that I'm aware of."

Probably some residents experienced high water and flooded basements, he said.

"We had staff out yesterday trying to keep up with sand and sandbags," Springman said. All of it was used Sunday. Public Works has put more sand and bags out for the public.

"We've got a couple of little local areas with smaller in-town streams that are up," Springman said. They were at their fullest Sunday.

In a few spots, drainage ditches were running full and slightly overflowing their banks onto roadways, prompting crews to put out some high water signs in areas like the 4000 block of Long Street.

"We've responded to a few complaints," Springman said. "But for the most part (there's been) nothing major at all."

The Wastewater Treatment Plant has been running at capacity, about 7.3 million gallons per day, thanks to inflow and infiltration. When the ground becomes saturated, ground water enters the sewer system through cracks and holes in the pipes in addition to drains and other sources of water from private property.

A PASTURE on the south side of Highway 228, just inside the city limits, sits under a lake of water as streams in the area overflowed their banks.

This can exceed the system's ability to transport sewage to the treatment plant, Springman said. When the conditions are severe enough the diluted raw sewage overflows into Ames Creek near its mouth at the South Santiam River.

The pump station overflowed Sunday morning and continued to overflow into the afternoon Monday.

The city posted signs Sunday morning warning people to avoid contact with the water in Ames Creek and the South Santiam River due to potentially higher levels of bacteria, Springman said. The signs will be removed when bacteria levels return to normal.

Around Sweet Home, the county has posted high water warnings for Crawfordsville Drive from Scott Mountain Road east to Highway 228, Mountain Home Drive from Scott Mountain Road to Santiam Terrace Road and Pleasant Valley Road from Berlin Road to McDowell Creek Road, and the county listed a closure on Upper Calapooia Drive.


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