While the general consensus is that the Mill Creek Flood Control Channel will continue to function for many years, a coalition of government and business leaders are working to ensure that the 75-year-old system will work well into the 21st century.
Participants in the group include the Port of Walla Walla, Walla Walla County, the City of Walla Walla and the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation.
Port Commissioner Mike Fredrickson says a most recent decision made by the group was to cost share one-half of a federal feasibility study that’s expected to take as long as three years and cost up to $3 million. The study will address the cost to rehabilitate/rebuild the Mill Creek Channel so it will provide flood protection for another 100 years.
Fredrickson said the study will also look at opportunities to make the channel more fish friendly and aesthetically pleasing.
A recent appraisal, completed in October, 2014, recommends a comprehensive study of flood risk prevention and ecosystem restoration. According to Fredrickson, the initial appraisal study concluded with the following observations:
• The current Mill Creek Channel is
rated as “minimally acceptable” and as a result operation and maintenance budgets have been quadrupled.
• Recent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operational changes to the upstream reservoir results in routinely higher flows in the channel.
• The Mill Creek Flood Control Channel runs through the heart of Walla Walla, including underneath a significant portion of the award-winning historic commercial core. Failure and collapse of any one structure into the channel could result in loss of life and induce flooding outside the floodplain.
• Structures identified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as “critical infrastructure” within the flood zone include public schools, colleges, nursing homes, hospitals, the VA medical center and the Corps of Engineers District Headquarters.
In addition to flood concerns, Fredrickson points out that the Mill Creek Channel does not allow adequate passage for fish, including native species protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Walla Walla County will serve as the local sponsor for the federal feasibility study. The coaltion partners are all contributing funding to meet the cost share requirement.
Pointing to the success of the U.S. Highway 12 Coalition in supporting the four-laning between Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities, Fredrickson maintains the Mill Creek Coalition can generate similar success. “It’s the Walla Walla way,” he said.
“There is existing authority to initiate this General Investigative Study,” Fredrickson says, “and we encourage the Corps to fund this project as soon as possible.”
Port continues to explore role for broadband fiber in economic growth The availability of affordable, next-generation broadband fiber is becoming essential economic development infrastructure. Communities without it will not remain economically competitive. That is why a host of public agencies throughout the Pacific Northwest are deploying publicly owned broadband fiber.
The Port of Walla Walla is in the process of determining what role it should play in deploying broadband fiber.
The Port retained Magellan Advisors to prepare a Comprehensive Study outlining Walla Walla’s current broadband infrastructure and options to make sure the latest broadband fiber is available in business districts within the Walla Walla Valley.
The Magellan Study was completed and published on June, 15, 2015. It can be found on the Port’s website. The Port Commission would welcome community feedback on what the Port’s role should be.
For now, the Port wants to take advantage of deploying some limited broadband infrastructure when roadways are being rebuilt in our business districts.
The Port Commission approved installing conduit and broadband fiber as part of the City of Walla Walla’s Alder Street Project this past summer. The Commission also approved installing conduit only within the City of College Place CARS Project. When demand warrants, fiber can then be easily installed.
The Port’s total investment combining both projects is approximately $375,000.