In hopes of seeing North Tillamook remain high and dry into the future, a group of area business owners and government representatives are turning to the same model that resulted in construction of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park's Fort to Sea Trail.

Oregon Solutions was behind that effort, which evolved into a partnership among Clatsop County government, the National Parks Service, Weyerhauser, Camp Rilea and the Trust for Public Land to create a trail from Fort Clatsop Memorial to Sunset Beach, commemorating the historic trail Lewis and Clark followed from their winter encampment at Fort Clatsop to the ocean.

In a similar vein, Oregon Solutions is helping Tillamook government officials, business interests, residents and dairy farmers with a stake in the future of flood-weary North Tillamook to collaborate with state and federal agencies to discover and implement means of alleviating chronic flooding.

Members of the Tillamook Basin Flooding Reduction Project Team held their first meeting on May 23. While the kick-off gathering did not produce any solid solutions to local flooding problems, it gave project team members hope.

"I think this is like the light at the end of the tunnel," said Denny Pastega, who owns the Blue Heron French Cheese Company, one of many businesses hit by repeat flooding. "If this doesn't work, nothing will."

Pastega is among project team members, all of whom were selected by Oregon Solutions consultant Dick Townsend. Other team members include State Rep. Deborah Boone, Bub Boquist (dairy farmer), Jon Carnahan (Tillamook Bay Community College president), Doug Clarke (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers chief program and project manager), Mark Gervasi (Tillamook city manager), Don Hurd (owner of Hurd's Upholstery, in Tillamook), Paul Levesque (Tillamook County management analyst), Bob McPheeters (Tillamook mayor), Tom Manning (Tillamook County Emergency Management director), Art Reidel (Port of Tillamook Bay commissioner) and Shawn Reiersgaard (Tillamook County Creamery Association environmental supervisor).

They and fellow team members will continue to meet monthly and work with project co-conveners Sen. Betsy Johnson and Mark Labhart, chair of the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners.

Johnson credits Labhart with getting the project ball rolling and continuing to generate its momentum. "Mark is completely up to speed," she said.

Following last November's record flooding along US 101 in North Tillamook, Labhart approached Johnson to help attract the attention of Oregon Solutions.

Now that they have accomplished that goal, Labhart and Johnson will continue to lead the project team in developing flooding solutions. "We will be asking the project team to answer two questions," said Labhart. "'What are your expectations and desires for this project?' And, 'What can you offer or bring to the table to make this collaborative process a success?'"

"It's about getting all these agencies together at the same table," said Pastega. "We're trying to take care of ourselves."

That kind of collaboration is an Oregon Solutions hallmark. Since its inception six years ago, Oregon Solutions has promoted a style of community governance based on the principles of collaboration, integration and sustainability.

The program originated with the Oregon Legislature's Sustainability Act of 2001, initially as a part of the executive branch of state government. In January of 2002, the program was transferred to the National Policy Consensus Center at Portland State University, where it remains. The center assists public leaders and state dispute resolution programs in establishing and strengthening the use of collaborative practice to address difficult public policy issues.

In keeping with state law, Oregon Solutions projects must address at least one sustainable community objective, and attempt to address multiple objectives. These objectives include:

• A resilient economy that provides a diversity of good economic opportunities for all citizens.

• Workers whose knowledge and skills are globally competitive, and supported by life-long education.

• Downtowns and main streets that are vital and active.

• Efficient development that saves infrastructure investments and natural resources.

The Tillamook Basin Flooding Reduction Project follows more than 20 Oregon Solutions-fostered projects to have been completed throughout the state since 2001.

The next Tillamook project team meeting is slated for 1:30 p.m., July 25 at the Tillamook Library, located at 1716 Third St. For more information, contact Labhart at (503) 842-3403.