A small Oregon community is being assessed mitigation costs that will almost double the original cost of a modest flood control project. (See pages 8-11 this issue.) Designed by a respected engineering firm the project increased an ankle-deep river channel to seven feet between the town center and the confluence with the Columbia River about 8000 feet.
According to the engineers this depth is well within the definition of shallow water habitat but the town is required to provide 25 acres of mitigating shallow water habitat along with other requisites.
Government officials are often constrained by laws that narrowly define their actions and they receive criticism for actions that they have no choice but to perform. But in this case there remains an aftertaste of a government at war with its citizens. It would be interesting to know how much personal judgement was exercised by the bureaucrats involved. To dredge an 8000-foot-long channel that would retain its shallow water habitat features after dredging and deposit the material into a low-elevation pasture area should have been a nearly self-mitigating situation. The mitigation ratio originally sought by the agencies was 10:1 a punitive level for a small town seeking to prevent the recurrence of devastating flooding. The ratio was then reduced to 2:1 which though also beyond the means of the town to finance holds some promise of a state or federal grant. But the bitter aftertaste remains.
Judith Powers Editor