Pendleton, Ore – The City of Pendleton has received a $625,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to take the next step toward restoring the banks of McKay Creek and lowering flood risks to areas damaged during the 2019 flood.
Fed from McKay Reservoir, McKay Creek flows through a mixture of private and publically owned properties both in and outside the Pendleton City Limits before merging into the Umatilla River. In April of 2019, McKay Creek eroded its banks to the point of flooding neighboring homes, and a similar flood happened again in May of 2020.
Understanding that issue, the City of Pendleton, Umatilla County, the Lower McKay Creek Water District, and other partners have worked together to find potential solutions and funding; these solutions include removal of sediment at the creek bed, restoration of eroded creek banks and stabilization of creek banks with 100-year level of flood protection.
Through Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corporation (GEODC), The City of Pendleton has applied for a $2.5 million grant to complete the McKay Creek Bank Stabilization project. FEMA recently came back with a request for more detailed designs of the proposed stabilization as well as the funding to complete those designs.
This $625,000 grant from FEMA will fund the completion of the design phase and cover specific engineering details, tribal consultations, and permitting to bring the project to a “shovel-ready” state and provide a better understanding of the funds needed to complete the project.
Pendleton City Manager Robb Corbett said it is important to recognize the value of both the $625,000 grant and other funding the project has received.
“It is important that we all celebrate the award of $625,000 to further this project and the commitment from FEMA to fund the balance of the project once the actual costs have been more accurately determined,” he said. “I think it is also critical to point out that this project will be funded without any match requirement. This is the second primary objective of the Lower McKay Creek Recovery Group that has been successful. The other success was getting the Basin Analysis funded.”
This recent FEMA grant is the third funded McKay Creek project working toward flood prevention.
A $400,000 FEMA grant in 2022 funded the McKay Creek Basin Study to analyze the creek basin to outline feasible solutions, and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board in 2021 awarded the Umatilla County Soil and Water Conservation District a $62,749 project identification grant to identify willing landowners and create the first 10 percent design of the bank stabilization and habitat restoration project.
Kyle Waggoner, District Manager for the Umatilla County SWCD, said the new FEMA grant will cover the gap from 10 percent to 100 percent design and will complement the other two projects to create the “golden key” for how to move bank stabilization forward.
“The basin study will finish this December, and that study will help with finding the right solution. This grant is going to help complete the work we started through the OWEB grant,” he said.
The project will identify the best materials to stabilize each section of the creek bank, such as bio engineering or large boulders, with a goal is to minimize disturbance to the natural creek habitat while providing a solution that protects the neighboring properties. The grant will also allow continued communication with residents along the creek and communication with the broader community.
Susan Christensen, GEODC executive director, said community involvement and community engagement has been vital to securing funding.
“Community involvement has been really invaluable for moving this project ahead. It’s one of the scoring points for the application, and the community has been very involved,” she said. “With the $625,000 grant, all the permits will be in, the community will know where the work is going to be taking place, where the staging areas will be, where equipment will be set up to do the construction.”
Those interested can follow the grant progress at http://umatillacountyswcd.com/resources/floodingprojecttracker.html. More information on flood preparation in the City of Pendleton is available at https://pendleton.or.us/fire/page/flooding.