Gov. Brown rethinks veto

Newport City Engineer Tim Gross gives locals a tour of the Big Creek Dams in June 2019. News-Times file photo.

SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown reversed her decision earlier this week to veto Section 82 of House Bill 5050, deciding late Thursday to not do away with $4 million to repair and rebuild the Big Creek Dams. 

The decision came down the pike early Thursday evening to Rep. David Gomberg (D-10th District), who was pleased to hear Gov. Brown’s decision. 

“The governor called last night to let me know she’s decided not to veto the funding for the dams,” Gomberg told the News-Times Friday morning. “Her primary concern was how this would affect the request for federal dollars.”

The Newport City Council earlier this week signed and approved a letter stating opposition to Gov. Brown’s planned veto, informing the governor the Big Creek Dams are extremely vulnerable to failure in the event of an earthquake. Not securing state money to rebuild the dams would leave the entire region at risk, the city council stated. 

“We do not have the luxury of time in delaying the planning, environmental permitting and design costs of this project,” the letter from the city council to the governor read. “We believe we owe it to our citizens to move forward with this project in an expeditious manner.”

The governor had said she wanted to instead have state money used to fund a study of all the dams across the state and determine which were the most at-risk and deserved money to rebuild and replace dam facilities. That study was already conducted, according to Gomberg, and two of the three most vulnerable dams in the state were the Big Creek Dams in Newport.
“I am both pleased and relieved,” Gomberg said of Gov. Brown’s decision. “I’m glad the governor sat down and listened to our concerns.”

The $4 million granted by HB 5050 isn’t the only money coming Newport’s way to rebuild the Big Creek Dams. The city is also applying for federal grants that depend on matching state money. Without the state dollars, the federal grants could have been taken off the table.

“This is going to give us the means to begin repair and replacement,” Gomberg said. “What that means for Newport is a sustained drinking supply for residents, visitors and businesses.”