Oregon Plans More Work on Highway Flooded in Dike Failure

July 19, 2006

It will cost $3 million to prevent more flooding on an Oregon highway damaged last month when a dike failed, state officials say.

Oregon 140, which links Klamath Falls with Medford, was closed a week after the Geary Canal dike failed and water from Upper Klamath Lake flooded 2,000 acres.

Emergency repairs got it reopened. The Oregon Department of Transportation now hopes to raise the roadway by about 3 feet and add concrete barriers and guardrails.

The work must be done soon to prevent flooding this winter and next spring, said Ron Snell, ODOT project manager

Snell termed the highway “a critical lifeline for many Klamath Basin residents and business owners.” Each day more than 4,000 trips are made over the damaged section of highway.

He said ODOT hopes to hire a contractor and begin work this summer.

Meanwhile, Ron McGill, a farmer whose land was flooded, retrieved farm implements submerged in up to 10 feet of water.

McGill and his wife, Ann, leased the flooded land, known as the Caledonia Marsh, and planted wheat on 1,400 acres. On Monday, he and three employees used a pontoon boat and a pair of empty tanks to float equipment from the flooded fields back to shore.

Some equipment can be salvaged and repaired, but other pieces, such as an excavator whose electrical system is ruined, are a lost cause, he said.

McGill said he contacted Pacificorp, which was in charge of maintaining the dike, on May 1 about leaks in the southern portion of the dike and “unprecedented cracks” in the northern portion.

Pacificorp workers came to repair problems in the southern portion, but not the area with the cracks, where the dike failed, he said.

Dave Kvamme, spokesman for Pacificorp, said he could not confirm or deny McGill’s call to the company regarding the dike.

“We have always responded appropriately when faced with problems with the dike,” he said.

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