Peninsula Drainage District No. 2 makes this week’s cut because it’s in a hell of a hurry to cut down 115 trees in northeast Portland’s Bridgeton neighborhood. Bridgeton sits atop the 90-year-old Bridgeton levee, a 2.3-mile stretch of sand that prevents the Columbia River from flooding an estimated 40,000 people. And the drainage district, which is “responsible for flood control in floodplains,” says levee safety requires cutting down Bridgeton’s cottonwoods, cedars and elms by Sept. 4.
But neighbors ask why so fast after 90 years, and want more time to study other options. “If somebody tells you, ‘You have to have your arm amputated,’ you get a second opinion,” says resident Alise Goforth.
Rumors of tree removal circulated for a couple years, but Goforth says residents first learned definitively about the removal around July 20, when orange ribbons were placed around trees slated for destruction.
Dave Hendricks, deputy director for all the drainage districts in Northeast Portland, says the neighborhood association has known of the plans for two years, though the execution sped up only recently.
That’s because the Bridgeton levee is the only one in the Portland area to fail to meet FEMA standards after a recent recertification. The trees are considered a danger to the levee’s structural integrity and—according to FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and district officials—must be torn out immediately.
But even with visions of New Orleans’ failed levees, the Rogue desk thinks Bridgeton should get some time to look at a Plan B. The neighborhood association says it’ll pay the $15,000 for another engineer to look at the levee.
Brett VandenHeuvel, staff attorney with Columbia Riverkeeper, thinks a levee that’s lasted 90 years can hold up a bit longer. “It’s very unusual for the local entity not to want to have time to try and deal with it in a reasonable fashion,” VandenHeuvel says.
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Take a drive along the levee:
Interview with Dave Hendricks: