John Day River restoration plan

A conceptual plan for changing the straightened and narrow channel of the John Day River in the city of John Day to a meandering river with side channels and wetlands will be presented during a March 12 online open house.

The public will get a chance to see conceptual plans for changing the John Day River stream channel where it flows through John Day during a March 12 online open house.

“Walker Macy is going to call in and show a presentation on the big screen up at the airport,” City Manager Nick Green told the Eagle. “We’re going to live stream the council meeting to Facebook and post the recorded meeting online afterward.”

The John Day City Council reviewed the river restoration plans developed by the Walker Macy landscape architect firm in Portland during a March 1 work session.

Historic gold dredging operations in John Day changed the location of the river and left a straight and narrow channel. The confluence with Canyon Creek was once several hundred yards downstream from its current location.

The conceptual plans call for restoring a mile-long section of the river from the planned city park near the Canton Street cul-de-sac to the single-lane bridge at the former Oregon Pine mill site.

Plans call for constructing the meandering river with side channels and wetlands on city-owned land north of the river and not on private land along the south side of the river.

State and federal funds would pay for the project, not city money, Green said. One estimate places costs at $1-2 million.

Walker Macy’s conceptual plans include a cross-sectional diagram showing how a 200-foot wide bench could be created by removing earth about 6 feet deep along the north side of the river. That bench would contain spring runoff or other flood conditions and reduce the size of the 100-year floodplain.

Councilor Dave Holland noted that excavating that much earth and finding a place to put it could be expensive. Filling in the percolation ponds at the current wastewater treatment plant once it’s replaced could be one use for the excavated earth.

The Army Corps of Engineers had suggested making the river channel changes to reduce flood hazards, Holland said. The Corps must approve the project before work begins, Green said.

Holland also noted that the Seventh Street extension would need to bend north around the meandering river, adding several thousand feet of construction costs to the road project.

Green said a possible timeline would include constructing the new wastewater treatment plant in 2020-2021 and starting the river restoration project in 2022-2023.

Richard Hanners is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. He can be contacted at rick@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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