December 29, 1995
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS' EMERGENCY MEETING
Harris Hall Main Floor - 11:00 a.m.
This meeting was held to deal with a potential disaster along the Middle Fork of the Willamette River below Dexter Reservoir.
Chair Ellie Dumdi presided with Cindy Weeldreyer, Steve Cornacchia, Bobby Green and Jerry Rust present. Also present were Steve Vorhes, Acting County Counsel and David Suchart, Acting County Administrator, and David Williams, Assistant County Counsel. Jerry Pierce, recording secretary.
Dumdi asked David Cassel, Assistant Director of Plans and Training, Oregon Emergency Management, for a briefing.
Cassel said the Governor had signed a declaration, a meeting had been held, an evaluation of the situation had been made and the parties would reconvene at 1:00 p.m. and arrive at a course of action. He said the National Guard was currently working on the problem and had plans to fill in 400-500 feet on one side. He said they were stressing a partnership with the County, the State, the federal government and all the players in the form of resources; not dollars. He stated that a check from the federal government to Lane County would not be forthcoming.
Cornacchia stated that the County needed to know what resources would be applied and what was expected from Lane County.
Weeldreyer expressed frustration that the County had not been included as a participant in the meeting which had been held earlier. She asked why a decision could not be made now, instead of holding an additional meeting behind closed doors at
Cornacchia asked if the Guard would be able to make a decision at 1:00 p.m. as to whether they would be able to do the job. He also questioned what they meant by the term partnership.
Cassel said partnership means that the County needs to contribute resources. He also said that after the 1:00 p.m. meeting he would be able to state that the National Guard had determined if it could or could not do the job.
Rust stated he felt it was time to lead, follow, or get out of the way and that he was prepared to tell the Countys Public Works Department to fill the hole now. He said the water is rising and the National Guard cannot handle the problem and that was all the County needed to know. Rust said the County could not depend on the state and the federal governments now.
Green stated his concern was that after the work is done, Lane County might not be made whole. He questioned the possible liability exposure of Lane County .
Vorhes said the risk to the County may be twofold: If the County went ahead with the project, there might be very little support from other sources. The second risk is the liability which the County always faces for whatever work it does.
Cornacchia said that state statutes absolve the County of liability outside of acts of negligence and that is a risk that the County always takes. He said that his understanding on use of CDBG Program funds is that retroactive reimbursement may be allowed if: (1) the Governor declares a state of emergency; and (2) the National Guard cannot respond to meet the emergency within the necessary time, or that the Army Corps of Engineers will not respond. He also said there may be reasonable arguments made on use of road funds because if the dike breaks and the river changes, it also covers the road. He suggested the Board come back at 2:30 p.m. to arrive at some alternatives.
Rust and Weeldreyer voiced support for moving immediately.
Cornacchia said that since this is not a flood, the State is incapable of dealing with it. He added that there may be no federal funds available. He said if the County takes action, it needs to do so with full knowledge of what that action entails. He itemized the options as: 1) possible use of road funds, 2) possible use of CDGB funds; and 3) if all goes wrong, the money would come out of general funds. He said the County may then be in for the entire load and there is only one place for that money to come from--public safety. He said as long as the Board understands the risks being taken there is no reason to wait two or three hours.
Weeldreyer said she had been out there at 7:00 a.m. and the water level was up at least one foot and heavy rain was forecast. She expressed concern that if the County waits there will be little daylight left and costs will only increase.
Green said he wanted it documented that the Army Corps of Engineers has stated they are unable to handle the problem.
Rust questioned any advantage in waiting and stated he was concerned about wasting any more time when the bank could collapse at any time.
Weeldreyer said she would like to confirm that the County has not been sitting around waiting and that its crew is at the scene and ready to go.
Richard Gamble, Army Corps of Engineers, said that once costs benefits are determined, the report goes to headquarters. He said the Corps does not have the authority to do anything other than fight a flood and they are waiting for instructions. He said there was a legal issue of instituting a flood fight without a flood. He further stated that it has been noted that the County is spending money which it does not have.
Green asked for an explanation of the down side for the Corps if it instituted a flood fight at this point.
Gamble said the down side could be that they would be told their action was illegal. He said he did not have contracting authority to step in without word from higher authority.
Lynn Brown testified, saying she was a homeowner in the area and the head of the phone tree. She said she had just spoken with Bill Wyatts office and a declaration had been filed with the Secretary of State.
Williams said he had just received that same information but it appears the declaration only calls out the National Guard. He said there may be another piece from the State required to trigger further action.
Cassel said the Governor had signed for use of state resources but resources beyond that were needed, i.e., Federal government, Corps of Engineers, etc. He said a formal letter was needed before the Corps could go and that even after they get the letter, they would have to decide if they are going to act.
Ken Bole, area resident, suggested looking at moving the bar and replacing the dike. He suggested that another areas residents should also be contacted.
Cornacchia returned from a phone call and said the Governor had not declared emergency; he had only called out the National Guard. He said the National Guard must say they are unable to do the job. He posed the question to the Guard: Can you do the job by Sunday?
Major Daniel E. Clem responded that no, they could not. He further stated that, unless the governor activated more resources, they could only address maybe 15 to 20 percent of the problem.
Rust said that by moving forward, the County would not be giving up its options and encouraged immediate action.
MOTION: To authorize Public Works to begin putting rock in the river to repair the levee. Weeldreyer MOVED, Rust SECONDED.
Cornacchia amended the motion to add: Based upon inability to receive information from state and federal agencies of their ability to assume responsibility. And:
The National Guard has stated they do not have the resources to respond to do the necessary work within the necessary time frame to avoid the breach of the dike.
The Board is reacting to a situation of imminent danger and lack of time.
The County Administrator and County Counsel are directed to continue discussions with State and Federal agencies to access any available resources. The County Administrator is delegated the authority to enter into necessary Intergovernmental Agreements.
The Commissioner of the district has made a commitment to continue to work with the local people involved to see about reimbursement from affected property owners and to re-create a district, or create a new district, to assume responsibility in the future.
The County Administrator is directed to return with recommendations on sources of funds to pay for efforts and Public Works is directed to do the analysis necessary to determine the threat to the County Road system.
Green said it should be understood that the County is spending dollars it doesnt have. He said it was not Lane County who was fiddling while Rome burned. He said Lane County does much more than law enforcement and this would increase the Countys financial inability to deal with any other future emergencies. He added that he was not comfortable with the level of exposure this creates, but that he was not opposed to the motion.
Rust said the County needs to do an assessment of all dike systems.
Cornacchia said he would be asking County Counsel to look at a flood control project and how it began and to research ORS 401 regarding local governments responsibility for emergencies.
The meeting recessed until 3:00 p.m.
The meeting reconvened at 3:00 p.m.
Suchart said that he had met with Ollie Snowden, County Engineer; John Clague, Captain, Public Safety; the Army Corps of Engineers; the Office of Emergency Management and the National Guard. He said the Governor had declared a state of emergency. He said the Corps of Engineers will provide assistance and are expected to start in the morning. He added that the National Guard and Public Works are working at the site now and that the National Guard and the Corps will continue if necessary.
There was a discussion regarding the phrase "responsibility of Lane County."
MOTION: To authorize Suchart to sign an agreement with the Corps of Engineers. Cornacchia MOVED, Green Seconded. VOTE: 5-0. Suchart signed Order 95-12-25-1.
Suchart said he would review the order with County Administrator Bill Van Vactor on Tuesday and that the Board would get an update during the first part of the following week.
Weeldreyer announced that there would be a meeting the following morning at 10:00 a.m. at Trent Christian Church to discuss resurrection of the district and to facilitate a smooth shift of the responsibilities.
There being no further business, this meeting adjourned at 3:22
Jerry Pierce, Recording Secretary
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