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City of Prineville purchases property to utilize for storm water treatment and draining in first step toward increasing capacity of aging system

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Heavy rainstorms often flood the intersections in the downtown Prineville area due to capacity issues.

Some recent violent rainstorms have once again demonstrated the lack of storm water draining capacity Prineville faces.

But city leaders hope that they may have found a pathway to fixing the issue and it starts with the purchase of a vacant piece of property on the northwest side of town.

Prineville City Council greenlighted the purchase of a property at the corner of Northwest Deer and Fifth streets last week that city leaders hope to use to manage storm water from Third Street.

"We could have that water run to that property and have it flow through a vegetative swale where it will be treated and then outfall to Ochoco Creek," explained Eric Klann, city engineer.

The property purchase, which was funded by system development charge dollars, is only part of the process to improve storm water draining in the downtown area, but it's an important one that is expected to persuade ODOT to replace old storm water drain pipes beneath Third Street.

The current storm water draining system moves water east to west down Third Street as elevation drops slightly that direction through Prineville. Siphons collect water at intersections east of Elm Street and move it from the east side of intersection to the west.

That water all moves to concrete storm water pipes that begin at Elm Street and run about five feet below Third Street to the location of McDonalds and First Interstate Bank. From there, the water travels north to Ochoco Creek. Storm water collected west of that channel also flows to the same area.

The origin of the existing storm water system can be traced back to Prineville's early days when the path of the Crooked River was artificially altered.

"Not many people realize this, but the Crooked River used to run under (present day) McDonalds and First Interstate Bank," Klann explained. "In the early 1900s, people got tired of it flooding the community and so it was dynamited into its current location. After they moved the Crooked River, they still used that old channel for a gristmill." Klann said that as time went by, homes or other buildings were built along the old river channel, it was piped and buried, "but it was done in a really haphazard way," using different sized pipe that was pieced together.

The storm water pipes from Third Street dump into that old channel and the water goes north under area homes and ends up in Ochoco Creek.

"An issue we have is with Ochoco Dam being built, Ochoco Creek has a lot sediment so the bottom of it has come up," Klann said.

Consequently, due to sediment build-up over time, half of the drain pipe is submerged beneath the creek floor.

However, an opportunity will soon come to deal with what lies under Third Street. Klann points out that ODOT has identified $1.8 million to upgrade all of the traffic signals along the road as well as the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) ramps along the same stretch.

Meanwhile, the city has been awarded a $3 million grant through House Bill 2017 that will fund pedestrian and safety improvements on Third Street. Upgrades include removing and replacing sidewalks on much of Third Street with ones featuring enhanced designs and colors, moving all of the overhead wires along the street underground, and installing new street poles.

While ODOT and the city team up on these projects and tear up portions of the existing street and sidewalks, city leaders want to deal with the storm water problems as well. The problem was ODOT was not interested in doing the work because the city had no plan for where the storm water would go. "So when the property at Northwest Fifth and Deer (streets) became available, we started running some calculations and found that with reconstruction of that storm drain system, we could run that water to that property…" Klann said.

The addition of the property gave the city a solution that it can offer ODOT and the storm water system work appears poised for inclusion in all of the other Third Street work.

"ODOT just selected an engineering firm to work on the whole project," Klann said.

The will spend about a year on design, he continued and the hope is to begin construction at some point in 2021.

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