Storm’s wallop hits county in pocket

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

November 22, 2006

Hood River County has tallied up and turned in its damages from the Nov. 7 storm to the state’s Office of Emergency Management.

Economic Development Coordinator Bill Fashing cautions that the tally is built on a worst-case scenario. The estimates list $27 million in damages for Hood River County overall. There could be an additional $22 million in agriculture costs and losses alone, if the irrigation districts can’t get up and running again.

“The $27 million is probably the more realistic number,” Fashing said. “But we present what is the worst of all possible situations to make sure our bases are covered.”

The initial damage assessment for Hood River County breaks down into:

* $1,340,924 for business costs and loss;

* $22 million for tree fruit impact on more than 5,500 acres;

* $3,910,000 for special districts costs and loss;

* $10 to 20 million for Highway 35 damage; and

* $1,774,000 for county facilities.

The damage covers 14 impact areas in Hood River County from south to north. Those sites include the major breaks within Highway 35 as it loops around Mount Hood (see related story). The sites also include the Mt. Hood Railroad, Red Hill Road bridge, Toll Bridge Road, Farmers Irrigation, Middle Fork Irrigation, the road to Coe Branch Diversion, Ice Fountain Water District spring and the Port of Hood River.

Port Director Michael McElwee was able to get an aerial view of the impact to the port’s cruise ship dock and the Nichols Boat Works basin. Commissioner Hoby Streich is a licensed pilot and took McElwee up in the air last week.

“The sand there is at least three times the size of what was there before,” he said.

McElwee rifled through port aerial photos from five and 10 years ago in his office. He said while the sediment has built up over time, what happened in a few days at the beginning of the month surpassed those decades.

“We took a look at the shoaling at the entrance there; it’s bad,” said Jon Gornick, project dredging manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

While the corps is responsible for keeping federally authorized channels on the Columbia River open, they aren’t able to help the Port of Hood River.

“We are on a continuing resolution right now; don’t even have the money to do it,” Gornick said.

A continuing resolution is what the government operates on when Congress hasn’t approved the nation’s budget.

The corps advised the port to apply for federal disaster relief. Whether or not the port or any of the impacted entities in Hood River County will receive funds to help repair damages is not yet known. What the county has done is enter into the process of qualifying for disaster relief through the state and then the federal government.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Ken Murphy, the director of Oregon Emergency Management, are touring the damage along Highway 35 Tuesday. Public Affairs spokeswoman Bonnie McCullough said they are taking a look at the initial damage assessment.

“We then make a determination if there would be qualification for federal funds,” she said.

McCullough said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will tour Hood River County as part of its sweep through Oregon next week.

“They are hitting Hood River, Tillamook, Clatsop and Lincoln counties on the 28th and 29th,” she said.

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