Commission tries to resurrect Milton-Freewater Water Control District board

The board is responsible for maintenance and repair of the levees along the Walla Walla River that protect the city and other areas.

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MILTON-FREEWATER — Volunteers are being sought to revive the Milton-Freewater Water Control District board.

The five-member board is responsible for maintenance and repair of the levees along the Walla Walla River that protect the city and other areas. The levee project was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1951, but was decertified in 2008 after three previous bond issues to fund repairs failed.

The board members have since resigned because they were unable to obtain liability insurance for protection from lawsuits connected with their official duties, said Umatilla County Commissioner Larry Givens. The district is still in existence and county commissioners are now seeking at least three people to appoint to the board for it to resume its function.

Givens said commissioners are currently checking to find out how much liability coverage board members will need under the state law regarding special districts.

One key issue facing the new board will be sponsoring another attempt for a bond issue for immediate repairs so the levees can be recertified as well as fund long-term maintenance, Givens said.

The decertification of the levees, which stretch along almost nine miles of the river, has come into sharp focus due to an ongoing project by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to upgrade the agency’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps. Those maps determine where property owners can be required to obtain flood insurance for mortgages or other reasons. The floodplain maps also substantially affect planning and development efforts within the city and county.

Because of the levee decertification, when FEMA revised the floodplain maps for Milton-Freewater the agency "looked at (the city) as if the levees aren’t there at all," said City Manager Linda Hall.

At the direction of Gov. Ted Kulongski, an Oregon Solutions Team has been formed consisting of all the local stakeholders to seek solutions to the situation regarding the levees and the floodplain designations, Givens said.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

To apply

People interested in applying for appointment to the Milton-Freewater Water Control District board should call the Umatilla County commissioners’ office at 541-278-6204

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