A design to back fill the excavated hill slope on Lief Erikson Drive near 31st Street as a means to stop the earth movement in Uppertown should be submitted to the city by the end of this week.

Public Works Director Mitch Mitchum reported to the Astoria City Council at its meeting Monday night that the city is working with the insurers and attorneys representing those associated with the hill to design the project and also figure out a means for paying for it.

He said if the design work is finished and submitted to the city for permitting this week and a means to pay for the project agreed on soon, work could begin by the end of the month.

Throughout the spring and summer homeowners in the area became increasingly alarmed as their homes were damaged, streets buckled, water pipes ruptured and cracks appeared in the ground as the earth moved.

Most of them believed the problems started after the base of the hill on Lief Erikson Drive was removed to clear the way for a building site.

A report by the geotechnical company, Landslide Technology based in Portland, released late last week found that to stop the earth movement, the hill would have to return to its state before the excavation work. That means dumping 6,500 cubic yards of either sand or rock onto the site.

No representative from the property owner, Skip Hauke, or the construction company that performed the excavation and built a retaining wall to support the hill after excavation, Jim Wilkins Construction Co., offered comments at the meeting.

But Mitchum said "discussions are ongoing" with those associated with the hill cut and said if financing can be finalized soon construction on the fill project could begin before the end of September.

"When we have something conclusive we'll announce that," he said.

He added the project should take about three weeks to finish.

Larry Allen, who had to move out of his house on Grand Avenue because of damage related to the movement, said in comments to the council that he hoped that the city would work to see that insurers pay for stopping the land movement and not the city.

"To me it's a very important issue," he said.

Councilor Loran Mathews, who also had to move out of his home because of the land movement, said as a private citizen he "appreciated the time and effort the city has put in on the issue."

Mitchum said data collected by Landslide Technology Sept. 12 indicates the hill is still moving and the next reading will be taken Wednesday. When asked, he said it does appear as if the movement had accelerated to some degree.

Geo Engineers, another Portland geotechnical firm, has been commissioned by the gas company Northwest Natural to study the earth movement's effects on its property. Mitchum said the company has installed five boreholes to study the movement, and that Northwest Natural has agreed to share the information gained by Geo Engineers with the city.


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