Hagg Lake dam dilemma: Fix it up or start fresh?

Existing dam wont withstand earthquake and needs to increase capacity

Should Scoggins Dam at Hagg Lake be refurbished to meet new standards, or should an entirely new dam be built? (KOIN)
Should Scoggins Dam at Hagg Lake be refurbished to meet new standards, or should an entirely new dam be built? (KOIN)

WASHINGTON CO., Ore. (KOIN) — A new dam at Hagg Lake is still in the beginning stages, but some proposals are already raising concerns with residents who live nearby.

Scoggins Dam at Hagg Lake was built in the 1970s. Today, it faces two problems: Experts say it won’t stand a chance in the event of a major earthquake, and it needs to be bigger to hold more water for a growing population.

Community members met Monday night to discuss several ways to fix the problem. One proposal would dramatically alter the landscape and move dozens of homes and properties.

Community members discussed several options to fix the Hagg Lake dam problem. (KOIN)
Community members discussed several options to fix the Hagg Lake dam problem. (KOIN)

Doris Knox’s family has owned her Washington County property since 1900. Now, she and many others in the area are uncertain about their futures as the county works to fix its dam problem.

“It’s always been the intention that the property would stay in the family,” Knox said. “It would split our property in half, it would take our water supply.”

Tom Vanderplaat with Washington County Clean Water Services says the current dam could be reinforced and raised to withstand an earthquake and increase its capacity.

Or, he says, it could be replaced downstream from Stimson Mill. But that option would flood out 30 or more properties, including the mill and more than 20 homes.

“This project is a multi-generational project,” Vanderplaat said. “What’s the cost and benefit that each alternative provides?”

That’s what his team and those with the Bureau of Reclamation are working to figure out.

An option to build a new dam would flood out Stimson Mill and dozens of homes. (KOIN)
An option to build a new dam would flood out Stimson Mill and dozens of homes. (KOIN)

The project’s price tag will be in the hundreds of millions, at least.

“We’re talking about public funds,” Vanderplaat said. “We’re talking about federal funds and local ratepayer funds.”

Trudy Minick has lived in the area since the 1950s. She says she hopes something can be done to fix the existing dam.

“I never thought my land would be impacted,” Minick said. “I was planning on leaving my property as a kind of oasis for my family.”

Discussions during Monday’s meeting also brought up other concerns including roads, how to keep the lake full, future conservation policies and the potential that the land the mill currently sits on may be contaminated.

Washington County Clean Water Services and the Bureau of Reclamation will submit their proposals at the end of 2016.

No matter what they decide, they will have to go through Congress.

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