SEASIDE - The city of Seaside is losing ground - literally.

Public Works Director Neal Wallace acknowledged a growing problem with land erosion at the end of Franklin Street, near the city's wastewater treatment plant.

This is the point where the Necanicum River meets the Pacific Ocean in the estuary. As the river curves around, it is continuing to erode more and more of the land north of the treatment plant.

"We lost about 42 feet in December and have already lost another 20 to 25 feet so far in January," Wallace said. "We're still hoping that the river will turn and go back to its original channel. "

Wallace said that during the heavy flooding in the winter of 1996-97, the river began to forge a new channel south of its original channel, closer to Seaside. Since that time, the estuary has changed, and, especially in the last couple of months, the river continues to edge closer to the wastewater treatment plant.

"Now we're faced with the problem of making certain that the treatment plant is not affected," Wallace said.

"That appears to be in more danger than the homes in the area. Although there have been some losses along the beachfront, it's not as extreme."

Wallace has met with engineer Cynthia Lowe of Parsons Brinkerhoff and geotechnical engineer Dwight Hardin of Geotechnical Resources Inc., both in Portland, to discuss options.

"We're talking about building some kind of "armament" right along the treatment plant's property fence line," he said. "It's kind of our 'last line of defense' and we can build there because it's in the uplands, away from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's jurisdiction."

The Corps has jurisdiction in any point below the high water mark - essentially anything under the water.

Although the Corps has been contacted, "they have been slow to respond to try and do something more proactive, like armoring the banks or redefining the channel."

Plans for the structure have not yet been defined, but it would probably be at least partially buried. It might entail digging a trench and filling with rock, concrete or a mix of the two.

"We're just not sure at this time of the depth or dimensions of the construction or how much would be exposed," Wallace said. "But given the manner that the bank is eroding, this has got to happen quickly. It's also important that it's successful, because we won't have time to go back and try something else."

The U.S. Coast Guard took current aerial photos of the area in their last flyby, at Wallace's request. He is waiting to see the photos, which will help determine the scope of the project.

Wallace said the City Council will be kept informed of the project and may be asked to release some kind of emergency funding.

"I'd like to see the work start in the next couple of weeks," he said.


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