Milton-Freewater levee repair measure sails to win

The $2.85 million bond measure gained 80 percent approval Tuesday.

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MILTON-FREEWATER -- In a flood of support, residents overwhelmingly approved a bond measure Tuesday to help repair the levee system protecting the city.

The $2.85 million measure passed with 80 percent of the voters, a total of 1,846, saying "yes" to the proposal. About 20 percent, 448 ballots, were "no" votes.

"Its a situation where you see the people of the community pulled together," Manford Anliker, chairman of the Milton-Freewater Water Control District Board, said today. "We have to give them accolades for coming together."

Constructed in the early 1950s, the system of levees along the Walla Walla River has been rated as "unacceptable" by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This means it is ineligible for federal assistance if damaged by a flood or storm.

The "unacceptable" rating has also resulted in the Federal Emergency Management Agency designating a sizeable portion of the city as being in a flood plain. The action has required many residents to purchase flood insurance.

The bond measure will assess property owners in the flood control district 62 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, meaning the owner of a $100,000 home will pay $62 per year for the bond.

Although the bond is an important step toward repairing the levees, Anliker said much remains to be done. The total cost for all the repairs needed has been estimated at $15 million.

Anliker said the next steps will be setting priorities to get the most done with the funds available while working with other agencies to "piggyback" efforts to address other problems. "This election was the first step in moving forward and getting the rest of this done," he said.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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