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Federal investments support construction of a new county courthouse and repair of the Willamette Falls Locks

COURTESY PHOTO - This aerial shot shows the section of Clackamas County's Red Soils Campus (between two existing buildings, top) where the new courthouse will be built.Millions in federal funding have been provided to Clackamas County for two priority infrastructure projects following the 2022 Oregon legislative session, which adjourned in March.

Investments totaling $100.7 million in Clackamas County were approved by members of Congress and state legislature during the 32-day session spanning Feb. 1 to March 4, the county announced Wednesday, March 16 in a press release.

$94.5 million of the newly approved funds will be earmarked for the construction of a new county courthouse to replace the current 85-year-old building, which county officials have said can "no longer handle" the current population of over 420,000 residents.

The remaining $6.2 million will fund efforts to repair the Willamette Falls Locks, a multi-lock system to help boats navigate the Willamette River in West Linn, America's largest continuously operating system of its kind before safety concerns caused it to be placed into caretaker status by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2011.

Built in 1936, the longstanding county courthouse on Main Street in downtown Oregon City was originally designed to serve less than 50,000 residents, and currently faces seismic risks, safety concerns and security issues.

$189 million is the estimated cost of the new courthouse, which, at 215,000 square feet, would more than double the capacity of the current building. Oregon legislators in June 2021 tentatively approved the $94.5 million in matching funds pending clarification on a new method proposed by project organizers for the new courthouse's operation and maintenance.

Following full approval of the funds, the building is slated for completion on the county's Red Soils campus in 2025.

"We are so grateful to legislative leaders, and in particular the members of the Clackamas Caucus, who have helped us strengthen our public safety system in Clackamas County," Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith said in a statement. "Securing state funding allows Clackamas County to build this courthouse without raising taxes."

The $6.2 million allocation has been directed by Congress to fund the Corps of Engineers' ongoing efforts to improve the seismic stability of walls located in the upriver section of the lock system, which are required before the Locks can be transferred to the custody of a non-federal owner.PMG FILE PHOTO - The Willamette Falls Locks opened in 1873 to help boats navigate the falls.

"These improvements will preserve the water table for renewable energy generation at Portland General Electric's Sullivan Power Plant, as well as salmon and steelhead habitat protection in the upper-Willamette," the county said in a press release.

Smith said in a statement: "Clackamas County has supported the repair and reopening of the Willamette Falls Locks since 2014," adding: "We are grateful to Senators Wyden and Merkley and Congressman Schrader for their leadership to secure this funding for this important regional asset."


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