How much does it cost to close a gate?

OAK GROVE, Ore. (KOIN) — In 2004, Clackamas County commissioners addressed an issue that literally resurfaced on Aug. 1 — cars that were dumped into the Willamette River.

8-12-13-closed gate
A gate at the site of multiple car dumpings into the Willamette River as of Aug. 12, 2013. (KOIN 6 News)

Nine years ago, the county installed signs and commissioners directed staff to explore funding to open and close the gate to help deal with the problems of “driving into the river, car dumping … and trespassing.”

At that time, the Clackamas County commissioners directed:

–Signs would identify the launch ramp is to be used at your own risk and would be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
–Dogs must be on a leash
–No parking at any time
–Lighting would be installed to illuminate the launch area
–Brush would be cleared to improve law enforcement vision in the area
–Keep looking for partnership funding opportunities to improve launch standards and fund gate operations

Tim Heider, the Public Affairs Manager for Clackamas County, told KOIN 6 News there was initially a system put into place that asked neighbors to maintain access to the gate, but lighting was not installed.

Now, Robby Nashif, a diver with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, said closing the gate would make a difference.

One of the 6 vehicles dumped in the Willamette River near Oak Grove, Aug. 2, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
One of the 6 vehicles dumped in the Willamette River near Oak Grove, Aug. 2, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

A 1996 Chevy Lumina. A burned Saturn. A 1980 T-top Corvette. Those are three of the six cars Clackamas County dive teams found in the water near the Oak Grove boat ramp weeks ago.

At the request of an insurance company — and to provide some training for the divers — the waters near the boat ramp were explored looking for one car. They found six, some of which had been in the water of the Willamette River a long time.

The Chevy Lumina had been on its top before the dive teams floated it back onto its wheels before towing it out of the shallow water at the end of the Oak Grove boat ramp.

Two cars were pulled out of the water, but four others — including the Corvette — are more complicated to remove and remain under water. The Corvette has been submerged for about a year, Nashif said.

This Saturn was found in the Willamette River near the Oak Grove boat ramp, along with 5 other cars on August 1, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
This Saturn was found in the Willamette River near the Oak Grove boat ramp, along with 5 other cars on August 1, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

The stolen or unwanted cars were in a virtual dumping ground in 15 to 30 feet of water.

Neighbor Jody Tilton said the cars are being dumped “because nothing’s being done about it.”

“You’re thinking of all these people just going across the top of it and don’t even know they’re down there,” diver Nashif told KOIN 6 News. “It’s dangerous. I mean, those cars can be leaking oil and anti-freeze, gasoline.”

“In my personal opinion,” he said, “figure out a way to get that gate locked at nighttime. Making sure it’s secure” is the way to stop more car dumping in this area.

Tilton said the county hasn’t really responded.

“Nobody wants to claim it,” she said. “They just forgot about it.”

But Clackamas County officials are now listening and responding.

Gary Schmidt, the Clackamas County Director of Public and Government Affairs, told KOIN 6 News in a statement, “This has not been an issue at the county since 2004. … However, since it is of concern today, it’s with the county’s attention. We will study this further and bring it to our Board of Commissioners for potential action.”

On Monday, Heider added, “A system was established to control public access. Unfortunately the system is no longer viable and there have been issues concerning access to the site. The County is reviewing this issue to determine what steps can be taken to restrict public access to the area.”

For Jody Tilton, the action needed is pretty clear.

“First, clean out the cars. Get it back to where it needs to be and then maintain it. And it would be solved.”

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