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The legislation targets Willamette Falls Locks, speed limits and blue-green algae blooms

PMG FILE PHOTO - The City of Wilsonville initially found traces of blue-green algae in its water supply in 2018.

By the end of the first day of the Oregon state Legislature's short session, Mayor Tim Knapp and the City of Wilsonville had already provided written testimony on three bills that were slated for public hearings the following day.

These bills pertain to the Willamette Falls Locks, speed limit authority and response to harmful algae blooms.

Locks

The City expressed support for a bill that would lead to the reopening of the Willamette Falls Locks. The legislation would establish the Willamette Falls Authority as a state-chartered public corporation and for $14 million in lottery proceeds bonding to repair and reopen the locks, which closed in 2011 but guided navigation and commerce along the Willamette River for many decades before that.

The testimony suggests reopening the locks would not only be a boon economically but also provide an alternative form of transportation in the wake of a major earthquake.

The City has been a part of the Willamette Falls Locks Commission, formed to determine what to do with the waterway. It also has contributed money to the commission and wrote in its testimony that the City is "prepared" to provide the $7,000 in annual financial support for a maximum of five years starting in 2020 to support planning efforts.

The letter mentioned that two Wilsonville businesses, Wilsonville Concrete and Marine Industrial Construction, could be impacted if the locks don't reopen.

"Passage of HB 4150 sends a strong message of reinforcement to Congress and the federal government that the State of Oregon is serious about reopening the Locks, and provides the State an opportunity to leverage federal infrastructure funding for preliminary repairs," Knapp wrote in the City's testimony.

Speed limits

Next, the City endorsed a bill that would provide cities with more authority to set speed limits for local roads.

The state currently sets speed limit standards and the proposed legislation mandates that jurisdiction would still need to meet state-established criteria to change speed limits but would allow cities more leeway to implement changes.

The City mentioned the Legislature's decision to allow the City of Portland to drop residential speeds from 25 to 20 miles per hour and that other cities would appreciate that kind of authority.

The letter also hints that the City of Wilsonville might be more likely to reduce speed limits rather than raise them, suggesting that cars traveling at lower speeds can reduce crash totals and the severity of crashes.

"Managing speeds in a way that is responsive to the urban environment, including the complex interactions of people moving by multiple modes, is critical to achieving safe streets," Knapp wrote. "In the context of an urban environment, concerns about vehicle speeds on neighborhood, school and arterial roadways is a major barrier to students' ability to walk or roll to school and other destinations, and requests for lower speed limits top the list in School Action Plans across the state. Delegating local speed setting authority to cities will allow for speeds to be set more quickly, efficiently and consistently across street types."

Algae bloom response

In 2018, City of Wilsonville staff experienced a brief scare when it found traces of blue-green algae toxins in its water supply. The City then rush-

ed samples to a laboratory in Seattle for further testing and the results came back negative.

Last week, the City supported a bill that would allow the State of Oregon to purchase devices for the testing of such toxins and fund an outreach coordinator to work with local jurisdiction to make sure they have the "plans, tools and training" to react responsibly to a similar or more severe event than what Wilsonville and some other communities faced.

"HB 4071 provides the State the ability for timely collection and testing capacity and improved multi-agency coordination as shown was needed during the 2018 HABs (Harmful Algae Bloom) incidents that impacted the public domestic water supplies of multiple communities in Oregon," Knapp wrote.


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