Countys restoration work wont help when the Sandy River rises again
Clackamas County has attempted to put a spin on the recent Lolo Pass Road protection work by placing signs claiming it to be 'Fish Habitat.'
I guess that is great if you're a salmon. It doesn't relieve the county from complying with certain regulatory measures designed to protect the citizens and the infrastructure along Lolo Pass Road.
After much ado, and many public 'feel good' meetings, Clackamas County proudly announced on March 14 that the road protection work had been completed. They had spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars during the repair, hyping that they had been working in 'collaboration' with the Army Corps of Engineers and Department of State Lands.
What the county has not told us is that they had been made acutely aware of the Corps of Engineers' 'SLOPES IV' transportation guidelines when they were issued the permit to move the river channel, re-establish the road and provide for future protection and mitigation, and that they have failed in several aspects to comply with these federal guidelines.
The SLOPES IV guidelines are established requirements for performing stream-bank protection measures and are absolutely essential for permit compliance. Any contractor or engineer who works on emergency or nonemergency stream-bank protection is sensitive of the SLOPES IV requirements and incorporates them.
Clackamas County began the rebuilding process appropriately when it hired and directed the incredibly competent and local contractors, Turin and Sons and Konell Construction, to construct the repair.
Let me be clear, the contractors where not responsible for the compliance or engineering of the work they were directed to complete by the county. It is my opinion that if the county had left the contractors' to complete the task, much of the dismal lack of understanding of the permits and SLOPES IV compliance would have been avoided.
Instead, Clackamas County assumed responsibility to insure the work would be compliant with the Army Corps permit. They not only fell short in this regard, but even failed to comply with their own ordinances outlined in their Floodplain Management District.
Specifically, they were supposed to comply with engineering standards that ZDO 703.10-J-1 requires. To this day they cannot even attain their own standard required in every floodplain development permit for every revetment project that I have ever seen.
Instead they have created a huge liability to the up and down river residents by placing trees improperly in the floodway and using alluvial materials (sand and small rock) for embankment. Using sand and small rock for stream bank protection makes about as much sense as a screen door on a submarine.
In addition, the meager bank stabilization work done by County crews just above the second bridge and immediately in front of a home on Lolo Pass, is a depressing illustration of the overall fortification measures executed to date, as witnessed by the small trees that are falling into the river because of continuing erosion.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the repair is continuing to erode until it hits the road. It will not take a flood event, and don't be surprised if this damage is never addressed until the road is gone.
Here are some other glaring examples of Clackamas County not adhering to the strict guidelines of the SLOPES IV and the county's own Flood ZDOs, as required by FEMA.
• There are many small cottonwoods and alders placed along the floodway out of the water. Trees mandatory for Slopes IV are required to be rot resistant. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know cottonwood rots quickly. Don't be surprised when the county has to come back and remove or replace these trees with the numerous rot-resistant trees they hauled off the site and now are missing in action.
• The root wads of most of the trees are exposed, facing down river as well as at the road itself. Trees that have been uprooted are to be placed with the root wad facing upstream, at a 45 degree angle to the current flow. Placing the trees in a willy nilly fashion in the floodway has jeopardized all the residents along Lolo Pass and has placed the second bridge in imminent danger of damage during any high water event. The very few root wads that are buried are only secured by sand and small river rock, which does not comply with accepted standards for stream bank protection.
• Not a single tree or boulder in the protection work is anchored. Clackamas County's own ZDO 703.10-A states very clearly that 'All new construction in the floodway shall be anchored to prevent collapse or lateral movement.' This is done with cables, chain and boulders of significant size. Without anchoring, it is impossible to insure the 'fish habitat,' as county calls it, are engineered so they do not move and create adverse affects to up- or down-river residents. This is an important FEMA requirement that Clackamas County has chosen to ignore in its flood-repair work. (It's not the first time this has happened).
• The revetment protection work on the Zigzag bridge is missing biodiversity required in revetment protection measures accepted by state and federal agencies. It also fails to meet proper anchoring requirements. There was not a single attempt to allow biological diversity in the repair at the bridge, unless you count the large, unanchored fir tree laid perpendicular to the upriver flow. The ludicrous display of the tree and the oversight of not implementing it into the bank stabilization, screams to the fact that nobody was paying attention to the SLOPES IV guidelines. It is nothing but another liability to our residents and misuse of FEMA emergency funds. Some would say it was negligence.
While it is standard engineering practice when planning protection measures to design them to meet or exceed historic levels, it is obvious to many local citizens, who are not engineers, that the county's work is woefully mediocre.
For Clackamas County, through FEMA funding, to not construct the protection measures necessary to comply with the corps' permit and then declare much of the work area as 'fish habitat,' is no different than if they received federal funding to build a maximum security prison and, instead of following the engineered plans, they leave the bars off of the cells, replace concrete with Styrofoam and put a sign up declaring it a 'residential care facility.'
We all enjoy the habitat the mountain has to offer. It is the reason many of us are here. Nevertheless, in some places the Sandy River has to be fortified to be confined within its banks. There are well-documented and engineered construction revetment measures that are designed to meet the impact of flood forces, and were readily available to the county.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the next flood is going to destroy the road again. Don't be surprised if Clackamas County has to come back and rebuild for a third time to get it right. Question: Who pays for that? I want them to come back right now and take responsibility for the disappointing protection measures they took a stab at. Clackamas County is starting to look like that screen door on the submarine.
Kip O'Connor is a riverfront property owner and 40-plus year resident of the Mt. Hood community.