News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Detroit, battered by wildfires, has a new worry

The mayor of Detroit, Oregon, is worried that a plan to lower the risk of a large earthquake causing the nearby dam to fail will hurt its tourist industry.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has determined that a large earthquake could cause the spillway gates of the Detroit Dam to buckle, resulting in massive flooding, has announced it will try to minimize the danger by reducing the maximum height of the lake by five feet starting in April.

The nearby town of Detroit was heavily damaged by a wildfire last year. It depends on visitors coming to enjoy the lake to help revive the economy. The mitigation measure could affect boat ramp access to the lake.

“Unfortunately, five feet is huge for us,” Detroit Mayor Jim Trett told the Salem Statesman Journal. “We’re disappointed. This is a critical year for us to get people back up here.“

Impacts on boat ramps will depend on weather conditions, with availability likely reduced by less than one week in some years to up to 20 days in others, the Corps said. One ramp could possibly be out of commission for up to a month.

“The availability of marinas and boat ramps located in the higher portions of the reservoir will be reduced by zero to 19 days,” said Corps spokesman Edward “Tom” Conning. “In 50 percent of years modeled, boat ramp availability for seven of the nine boat ramps are likely to be reduced by less than one week.”

The Corps said it continues to evaluate the seismic performance of the spillway and other components of the dam to determine if longterm modifications or changes to operations will be necessary.


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