High waters were a hot topic of discussion at Tuesday night’s Elgin City Council meeting, as the topic of flooding soaked into several items on the agenda.
Dan Larman, Elgin’s public works director, said while the volume of water rushing down the nearby Grande Ronde River was at 9,500 square feet per second on Friday, it rose to 27,000 square feet per second by Monday. Because of these rapid and high floodwaters, Larman said the city has closed Cedar Street in Elgin until “the blacktop is showing.”
The public works director reported he has not yet found any evidence of inflow and infiltration, or the process of groundwater mixing with wastewater and overwhelming the waste treatment plant, although Elgin’s sewers have had this problem in the past.
He also noted these are “record setting times.” On Tuesday, he measured the waters at 15 inches above the high water mark he created in 2011 on a permanent structure on 3rd Street in Elgin. Although some Elgin citizens and Councilman Rocky Burgess recall the flood waters reaching an even greater height in previous years, Larman said, “This is the highest I’ve ever seen it.”
No recent digital data was available to check this high water mark level on the FEMA Flood Map Service Center website.
Larman later thanked the Union County Sheriff’s Office for lending a rowboat to the Elgin public works department, as the land surrounding the sewage treatment plant was so deep under water Larman and his team couldn’t drive their pickups to check on the plant. They had to row there instead.
“The Union County Sheriff’s office really helped us out,” he said.
This imagery of the city workers in a rowboat drew a laugh from council members and citizens present at the meeting. Although the flooding seems bad, Larman encouraged those at the meeting it was manageable with his lightheartedness and good humor.
“We’re taking in high flood waters, but it’s nothing we can’t handle,” he said.
Elgin Mayor Allan Duffy thanked Larman’s public works team for its swift action with controlling floodwaters as best they can and acknowledged the support from Union County and even state Legislature representatives.
“Dan’s crew is doing an exceptional job (with the floodwaters) on top of their regular duties,” he said in the meeting. “I was pleasantly surprised to receive calls from Senator Wyden and Congressman Walden’s offices, offering aid. Knowing they’re there and we can just pick up the phone if we need anything is refreshing (compared to) where we’ve been before.”
Larman joked that the Hu-Na-Ha RV Park in Elgin is now named the “Island of Hu-Na-Ha” as it is surrounded by high water. Elgin Parks & Recreation Director Bryan Jungling said although there are 18 guests currently staying in the RV Park, he has not yet ordered them to evacuate because there is no cause for alarm.
“There is a plan in place if we need to evacuate,” Mayor Duffy said.
In other news, Elgin City Administrator and Recorder Brock Eckstein said the city is currently working with Business Oregon to finalize a contract for the block grant Elgin received for renovating its sewer system.
He also announced Elgin Clean-up Day will take place from 8 a.m. to noon May 11 and the city’s first budget hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. April 15 at Elgin City Hall.
Tuesday night the council also moved to donate $300 a year from its donation fund to the Friends of the Opera House to show its support — although, in a counterargument, the mayor and some councilors pointed out the city owns the Opera House and does not charge the organization rent. The city is also working hard to find grant money for Opera House additions and renovations in the near future.
“They’re a big part of the community, and have increased the number of people coming here,” said Mayor Duffy, who voted in the affirmative for this motion. “I want to show them support as they’re trying to get their board going to finish the work to get their expansion.”