COOS BAY — Continued erosion and inadequate maintenance has residents in the Englewood Diking District highly concerned over its dike’s future.
“It’s old and deteriorating by the second,” said Englewood Diking District Superintendent Tom Gollihur. “We’ve been able to do some minor repairs, but we need to find a long term permanent solution.”
Tom Gollihur, Superintendent of the Englewood Diking District, stands Thursday near a leak in the dike that flanks his property in Coos Bay.
The district, which is responsible for the Englewood Dike, has been struggling for years to keep up with the dike’s maintenance. Insufficient funding and lack of resources has prevented its members from fully repairing the dike on its own, which was originally constructed in 1856.
“We charge an annual maintenance assessment of $50 per acre,” said Gollihur. “So, each year we get about $2,800 which is woefully inadequate to maintain a dike that is over 160 years old.”
During the winter season, high tides coupled with strong winds and increased rainfall is what Gollihur said are his main concerns. The combination, he explained, increases the possibility of the dike breaching due to the added pressure on an already weak structure.
In addition to erosion, the dike has also suffered from nutria digging holes into the dike, causing water to leak through its barrier, said Gollihur.
“It looks like Swiss cheese down there,” he said. “We’ve been able to patch them up with dirt and sand bags when needed.”
Although the dike hasn’t flooded since 2006, which caused severe damage to dozens of homes in the area, Gollihur said the district has already faced a number of issues this year alone including tide gate complications which has caused the field near his property to partially flood.
Since 2015, the district has reached out to a number of agencies including the City of Coos Bay, as well as Coos County Commissioners in seeking assistance to help make repairs.
A woman steps over sandbags into her home as water breaching the Englewood Dike floods private property off California Avenue in Coos Bay on Friday.
While the majority of the district lies on county land, Commissioner John Sweet said the county also has limited funding and was in no position to provide financial assistance. As for the City of Coos Bay, which purchased flood prone homes on Old Wireless Lane using Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding in 2006, it too cited limited resources and budget constraints as deterrents.
According to Coos Bay City Manager Roger Craddock, the city discussed potential recreational grants and projects to fix the dike at previous work session meetings in 2017. At one point, the city negotiated a FEMA grant, valued at $125,000, to draft and design a repair, but the district was unable to come up with its 20 percent matching fee.
Although the dike is not within city limits, portions of Southwest Boulevard, which is a city owned road, will be impacted if a breach were to happen. The city also has a main sewer line in the area that will have to be relocated and replaced if flooded.
“We have already placed a small berm on the low spot of Southwest Boulevard,” said Craddock. “A long term fix would be to raise the road and move the sewer line. The city is coming up with plans and designs to have in place and ready when money does become available.”
Recently, Gollihur said he reached out the Coos Watershed Association for assistance and is looking into potential grants centered on fish habitat restoration after discovering a creek near the tide gate once featured coho salmon.
Water breaching the Englewood Dike floods private property off California Avenue in Coos Bay on Friday.
“Our organization works with landowners to implement win-win projects that have benefits to them and their land management goals that significantly improve watershed conditions for aquatic species,” said Coos Watershed Association Executive Director Haley Lutz in an email.
While no formal partnership has been made between the district and Coos Watershed, the group does plan on including them in its upcoming Coos County Stakeholder Engagement Project to discuss possible solutions. Gollihur estimates the cost of repairing the dike being in the millions.
Tom Gollihur, superintendent of the Englewood Diking District, talks to his neighbors Friday as water floods property along the dike in Coos Bay.
“We would all sleep a lot better not having to worry all winter long about the dike,” said Gollihur. “While not all the homes in the district are flood prone, we still need to rehabilitate the dike. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”