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During the 2017 Outreach Meetings participants up and down the coast were shown this video courtesy of the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board.
Oregon tide gate and infrastructure discussion summary
The Oregon Tide Gate and Infrastructure Discussion supports resilient coastal communities by reducing risks from coastal hazards, protecting landscapes that support local economies, and enhancing ecological function of estuarine resources for fish and wildlife.
If tide gates fail, roads, businesses, homes, and agricultural lands become more vulnerable to flooding and intense winter storms. Areas once managed by tide gates area at risk of becoming unmanaged wetlands. Currently, no statewide inventory of tide gates exists, nor is there a data-driven tool to help communities prioritize where tide gate repair or replacement would be most beneficial. In addition, engineering solutions are limited, and landowners are often hesitant to work with government agencies for fear of scrutiny and regulatory repercussions.
A well-designed and managed tide gate strikes the delicate balance of protecting developed land from tidal inundation while managing tidal flows to allow migration of native fish, and maintain water quality and ecological function in the estuary. The elements outlined below work to support this balance by developing a suite of tools to assist landowners, communities, and others to improve and replace tide gates where necessary
Currently, discussion participants include landowners, state and federal agencies (ODFW, OWEB, ODA, DSL, ODOT, Regional Solutions, NOAA-Fisheries, NRCS), agricultural organizations (Cattlemen, Farm Bureau, Dairy Farmers, Water Resources Congress), counties, and conservation organizations (watershed councils, conservation districts, The Nature Conservancy, land trusts, Wild Salmon Center, Tillamook Estuaries Partnership, and The Freshwater Trust). Participants plan to reach out to tribes and other interested groups as the project moves forward.
TIDE GATE INVENTORY - While some communities have completed tide gate inventories, a state-wide inventory does not exist. An inventory will better identify the number, location, upstream resources, and condition of existing tide gates, providing a framework to consider risks, benefits, costs, and appropriate solutions. The inventory will utilize publicly available information, including existing inventories, Google Earth imagery, and the knowledge of interested local landowners and partners. Once a baseline inventory is complete, landowners will be offered an opportunity to voluntarily request a tide gate survey to learn more about the type, size, condition, and estimates for repair or replacement. Sites will be surveyed only with landowner permission.
INTERACTIVE DECISION SUPPORT TOOL - The decision support tool will be an interactive, online tool that provides a flexible and systematic approach for identifying priority project sites from a multitude of perspectives. The tool may be used by funders, local governments, restoration partners, and others to prioritize project sites at a local, regional, or coast-wide scale based on a variety of user-defined ecological, economic, and community desired outcomes. For the tool to identify priorities around agriculture, economic development benefits, community benefits, flood reduction, community resiliency, infrastructure, water quality, ecosystem function, fish habitat, and other factors, data for those indicators must be available and incorporated into the tool. It is expected that the tool will have the ability to expand as additional data sets become available. Privacy concerns will be addressed as a part of the tool's design.
ENGINEERING TOOLBOX - The Engineering Toolbox is intended to address engineering-related issues associated with tide gate repair and replacement projects. A predominant issue surrounding tide gate projects is that the patented Muted Tidal Regulator (MTR) is one of the only replacement alternatives that currently meet fish passage requirements. With limited manufacturing and costs that are out of reach for many drainage districts and landowners, new engineering designs are needed that meet fish passage requirements. The process will explore opportunities to encourage engineering entrepreneurship to bring additional, owner-friendly technologies to the market. It also proposes to explore opportunities to expand implementation of the existing MTR technology.
Tide gate improvement or replacement projects can take time to implement. Presently, project demand and lack of funding exceed the ability to complete projects before existing infrastructure fails. The discussion will also explore interim measures that could be approved and implemented to avoid catastrophic failure of existing tide gate infrastructure. Similarly, methods to keep landowners engaged and interested in pursuing projects on their properties will be investigated.
REGULATORY TOOLBOX - Discussions with local, state, and federal agencies will explore regulatory assurances for landowners who volunteer for tide gate improvement projects. Assurances may include recognition for associated habitat improvements and compliance with applicable environmental regulations. Assurances can provide landowners who implement habitat improvements or other conservation work on their land with protections under the Endangered Species Act or other regulations. As part of the Regulatory Toolbox, discussions will be initiated with landowners during local outreach meetings to obtain valuable input on desired regulatory assurances for consideration by state and federal partners to ensure consistency among and within agencies to streamline and bring predictability to regulatory permitting and associated costs.
ON-THE-GROUND PROJECTS - On-the-ground demonstration projects will help explore, demonstrate, and document the partnerships and new approaches for tide gate projects. Projects will also help identify lessons learned and considerations for planning and implementing future tide gate repair and replacement.