A federal disaster declaration for six counties in Oregon opens up the opportunity for federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts.
President Donald Trump issued the declaration on July 9. The declaration applies to Grant, Curry, Douglas, Linn, Umatilla and Wheeler counties for areas affected by severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides from April 6-21.
A federal disaster declaration allows local governments to be eligible for loans, insurance relief and other assistance.
According to a report by Daniel Stoelb, of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, an unusually wet period occurred over Oregon during the April time period, driven by powerful west-southwest winds laden with Pacific moisture.
Several areas in Eastern Oregon received record to near-record rainfall over a 48-hour period that coincided with snowmelt and caused rivers, creeks and streams to overflow their banks. Several SNOTEL gauges in the mountains recorded 6-12 inches of snowmelt runoff during April.
In Grant County, the John Day River backed up at Picture Gorge, flooding ranches for several miles east. Highway 26 shoulders in Picture Gorge were eroded by the flooding river.
Floodwater from the South Fork of the John Day River covered portions of Dayville, and the John Day River overflowed its banks all the way to Mt. Vernon.
Runoff from lands burned during the 2015 Canyon Creek Complex fire engorged Canyon Creek, damaging the Inland Street and Nugget Street bridges in Canyon City.
Groundwater rose up into the boiler room at Grant Union Junior-Senior High School, and shoulders along Highway 395 south of Canyon City were eroded.
The powerful current in Canyon Creek eroded a 23-foot high embankment below Fourth Avenue Southwest in John Day, endangering one of the main routes to Grant County Regional Airport.
The six Oregon counties and the cities in those counties filed a joint preliminary damage assessment with the Federal Emergency Management Administration. The total came to $8.2 million.
Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Reps. Greg Walden and Peter DeFazio wrote to Trump in support of Gov. Kate Brown’s request for a presidential major disaster declaration for the counties.
Estimated damages included $5.3 million for roads and bridges; $1.3 million for utilities; $534,125 for emergency protective measures; $425,000 for water control facilities; $317,840 for parks; $154,675 for debris removal; and $15,000 for public buildings.
In addition, the Oregon Department of Transportation requested emergency relief through the Federal Highway Administration for damage to major transportation networks. The ODOT estimate totaled $3.7 million.