PROPOSED MEASURE XX-XXX
In May 2024, Multnomah County voters in the flood district will have the opportunity to vote on a bond measure to upgrade flood safety infrastructure, protecting water quality, vulnerable communities, businesses, and the environment.
Mail or drop off your ballot by May 21st!
Residents within urban Multnomah County currently receive flood protection services along the Columbia River flood zone. This area includes:
Nearly 8,000 residents
50% of the region's manufacturing and warehouse jobs
2nd largest source of drinking water in Oregon
22M passengers annually at PDX
$16B in annual economic activity
2,000+ acres of open space and natural habitat
The current flood safety system is over 100 years old. In a changing climate, the infrastructure does not meet basic requirements established after Hurricane Katrina. If passed, proceeds of the bonds would upgrade aging infrastructure along the Columbia River, which failed in 1948 destroying the City of Vanport. Congress approved nearly $100 million for flood safety projects in Multnomah County. This may be unlocked for a limited period with a local match. If passed, the estimated annual tax rate for bonds would be 0.14 per $1,000 of assessed value, an average monthly cost of $2.88. The district would establish a bond oversight committee and require audits.
Proposed bond investments
If passed, this measure would finance capital costs to:
Raise levees, improve floodwalls, pumps, pipes, and drains in the most vulnerable areas.
Increase resilience with natural flood protection, such as the restoration of wetlands to store floodwaters and improve fish and wildlife habitat.
Improve access and safety of pump stations. Provide a safe and efficient space to support operations and maintenance during normal conditions and emergencies.
Specific projects include:
Upgrade 7 failing, aging, or underperforming pump stations.
Replace or upgrade aging and undersized pump stations.
Add capacity and redundancy where needed.
Improvements to debris management make pumps more reliable.
Back-up power capacity to critical pump stations in case of a power failure.
Improve safety and efficiency of infrastructure operations and maintenance.
Elevate and repair an estimated 9 miles of vulnerable sections of the levee and floodwall system.
Address vulnerabilities in an estimated 9 miles of levees and floodwalls.
Making levees and floodwalls stronger and more reliable by filling in low spots and widening vulnerable sections.
Building a new levee and floodwall along the segment of the 1948 levee breach.
Improve levee surface to prevent erosion and support safe, reliable maintenance.
Integrated design features for climate resilience, environmental improvement, equity, and sharing the cultural history of the floodplain.
Where possible, District-led projects will integrate these project objectives during the design phase. An estimated $5.7 million was budgeted for integrated design features on District-led projects.
If the measure passes, will it increase our taxes?
For residents within urban Multnomah County, the proposal, if passed, would increase the local property tax rate by 0.138 per $1,000 of assessed value, an average monthly cost of $2.84.
When will this be on the ballot?
May 2024. Ballots must be postmarked or placed in a dropbox by 8pm, May 21.
What would this bond measure pay for?
If passed, proceeds of the bonds would upgrade aging infrastructure along the Columbia River, which failed in 1948 destroying the City of Vanport. The current flood safety system is over 100 years old.
Why is this happening now?
Our current system does not meet basic federal flood safety standards established after Hurricane Katrina. Similar infrastructure up and down the West Coast failed to withstand recent extreme weather events, which are becoming more frequent in a changing climate. There is a limited window of opportunity to partner with the federal government, which has authorized nearly $100 million in matching funds. This reduces the burden on local taxpayers to make flood safety improvements.
How were the projects selected?
The projects were identified by engineering assessments, a comprehensive summary of the district’s flood safety assets, and a plan to build needed improvements. Specific sources of projects include: 1) Levee Recertification Assessments, which identify the projects needed to maintain FEMA accreditation (under 44 CFR 65.10) and allow residents and businesses to access low-cost flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). 2) Portland Metro Levee System Study by the US Army Corps of Engineers to identify risks and develop a plan to make the system stronger and more resilient. 3) Drainage Master Plans to evaluate the pipes, drainage ditches, and pump stations that collect and direct rainwater inside the levee system. These plans identify areas that need improvement to keep roads, homes, and businesses dry during big rainstorms.
How long will it take to complete the projects?
If passed, construction would be complete within 10 years of initial bond issuance, which can be initiated immediately after voter approval.
What is a levee?
A levee is an extended natural or artificial mound of earth that reroutes the flow of water. Many levees are made of sand and silt. Levees were constructed by the federal government and local communities throughout the 20th century to prevent rivers from flooding cities, agricultural, and industrial areas. In the greater Portland area, our levees were designed early in the 20th century to operate as one system, along with ditches, culverts, and pump stations, to collect or divert rain and runoff and keep the 24,000-acre managed floodplain next to the Columbia River dry year-round. Today, the managed floodplain is densely developed with homes, businesses, highways, and the PDX airport. The levee system that protects the floodplain from flooding is now over 100 years old and no longer meets federal standards.
How can the natural environment help improve flood safety?
Restoring wetlands, stream channels, and other natural areas in the floodplain provides natural flood protection. Natural flood management strategies are an established practice in engineering manuals from the Army Corps of Engineers, recommended by FEMA, and actively deployed by flood agencies around the world.
Who manages the flood safety system?
Four small governmental entities called drainage districts have historically been responsible for maintaining the levee system (PEN 1, PEN 2, MCDD, SDIC). The drainage districts were originally established in 1917. Despite the significant changes in the land use in the area, the funding and oversight structures that were established a century ago are still being used today, which has severely limited the ability to maintain this important infrastructure system. In 2019, the Oregon State Legislature passed Senate Bill 431, creating a new district to modernize the management of these flood control systems. The Urban Flood Safety & Water Quality District (the “UFSWQD”) is currently led by an interim board and will ultimately replace the four drainage districts that manage the system today once operating revenues are in place. Voters will elect a majority of the board on a subsequent ballot. The governor will appoint other expert board members.