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Levee under stress

Tom Gallihur, the acting superintendent of the Englewood Diking District, points out factors that he believes are contributing to the failure of the dike, including the added stress of a flood plane along a portion of the eastern bank of the waterway on July 22, 2017.

Bethany Baker, The World

COOS BAY — Residents of the Englewood Diking District met Tuesday with the Coos County Commissioners to discuss the possibility of emergency renovations to fix up problem areas in the dike before winter comes.

The diking district recently brought their concerns about the structural integrity of the dike to the attention of the Coos Bay City Council. However, the city lacks the resources to pay for the renovations. The dike also doesn’t rest on city lands.

 “We realize the financial situation of the city and the county, were not asking for money. We’re looking for grant money. We do need the county and the city’s support not only on this project, but we need the county emergency management, the city, and the Corps of Engineers engaged in this,” Englewood Diking District Superintendent Tom Gollihur said.

As a district, Englewood can’t submit applications for grants. They can write up the applications, but the grants must be submitted by the city or the county.

The dike, which spans from Old Wireless Lane to California Ave is over 160-years-old, built in 1856. While much of the dike needs repair, there are parts of the dike along the Cole Bank Slough that residents fear will fail this winter and deserve emergency attention.

“The main reason I’m here is to get that emergency repair done as quickly as possible before we have more devastation, more problems, and a broken dike,” Englewood Diking District resident Amy Murphy said. There are holes that are five feet deep and five feet long in the hill of the dike.”

If the dike were breached, several homes would be at risk of flooding. Many of the houses in the area have been raised to account for flood damage, but flooded roads would make getting in and out of the area very difficult.

“During winter high tides, that’s when it’s going to break, if it’s going to break. Where the tide gates at and the dirt is thin and we’re not able to work on its going to break,” Murphy said.

The Coos County Commissioners explained the grant-request process to residents telling them that they must apply for a 404 permit with the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. At that time, their grant writer will write up a grant and submit it to the county who will sponsor it and send it off to the federal government.

 “What preleases me is that the residents are taking responsibility,” County Commissioner John Sweet said.

Residents are frustrated because they’ve put a lot of money into sustaining the dike over the years, and are limited to the amount of work their allowed to do because they don’t have the proper permits.

“Property owners have spent thousands of dollars. I myself have spent over $7, 000,” Gollihur said.  

Although residents now better understand the steps they need to take, they’re worried that the work on dike that needs to be done before this winter won’t get done in time.

“We don’t have time for the grant-writing process to fix the emergency part of the dike. That’s why I’m asking for help with funding the extra fill material to repair that one spot before we are given the allowance of grant,” Murphy said.

Commissioner Sweet responded to Murphy’s question by asking her to tell the county what the residents need to fill the holes in the dike immediately. Murphy was unable to put a dollar amount on the cost, but will be looking into it.

“I have no clue what I’m doing to be honest as far as these permits go, but I will do what I can,” Murphy said.