SEASIDE – Work to remove berms to ease the annual fall and winter flooding along U.S Highway 101 between Cannon Beach and Seaside won’t be launched until late August or early September, according to Larry McKinley with the Oregon Department of Transportation.

“Our goal is to complete the beaching of the berm between the Circle Creek Campground and the Seaside city limits, seed the area and let it winter over, then come back in the summer of 2013 and start wetland restoration,” he said.

ODOT and Clatsop County are working jointly on the project that calls for cutting holes in multiple berms along Highway 101 to allow the high water to flow through onto fields off the roadway.

“The idea is to reduce the intensity and the duration of the flooding,” McKinley said. “All the work to breath the berms will be done off the highway to minimize traffic impact.”

The cost of this first phase of the flooding control is an estimated $700,000 to be funded through the ODOT wetland mitigation program.

Engineering studies suggest that the berm breaching along the Necanicum River’s west bank would be the single action that would allow flood waters to gradually seep out over the 100 acres of floodplain decreasing water on the highway by as much as 12 inches, minimizing or even eliminating the flooding during most winters.

Once the berns are removed, ODOT and Clatsop County officials will evaluate the results before deciding on additional work that might be needed.

Business operators in both Seaside and Cannon Beach have expressed concerns about the economic impact of the flooding and are anxious to see a long-term solution.

Doug Barker, a member of the Seaside Tsunami Advisory Group, summed up his concerns about the safety impact of the highway flooding during a public meeting on the issue in the spring of last year within days after a tsunami alert along the Pacific Coast was issued triggered by the devastating earthquakes in Japan.

“We had people trying to leave the city the night of the tsunami warning,” Barker said. “The other concern is that Providence Seaside Hospital that serves the surrounding communities is here and there are times when people can not get to the hospital because of the high water. It is only a matter of time before the flooding will cost someone their life.”

© 2012 Seaside Signal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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