Family forced to pump 3M gallons from flooded property

Homeowner: 'We've spent 9 months not knowing whether to laugh or cry about it'

This is what Jeff Stewart's property looked like after water from the development next door flowed onto his farm, February 2017. (Courtesy photo)

HUBBARD, Ore. (KOIN) — A family is worried for their property in Hubbard after a brand new development next to them pushed millions of gallons of water onto their land. However, they don’t blame their new neighbors — they said the city dropped the ball.

Jeff Stewart and his family live in a home that’s stood for more than a century. But last winter, they feared their farm house would be flooded.

Read the City Attorney’s statement at the bottom

Stewart said the rush of winter water came from the 3-acre storage facility at the northern edge of his property. According to him, the water continued to rise into his barn. Parts of his property were under 3 feet of water due to an outlet from the detention pond.

“The water level was basically at the bottom here…knee high, here in the barn,” Stewart said. “If it had raised another foot, it would have been at the house.”

Stewart then complained to the City of Hubbard, which approved the development plans.

This is what Jeff Stewart’s property normally looks like, Sept. 23, 2017. (KOIN)

The city loaned Stewart a pump and he received emergency permission from ODOT to pump water day after day into a ditch along the highway — adding up to around 3 million gallons.

Stewart also said he asked the city to require the developer to redesign their storm water drainage system because according to him, it was obvious it wasn’t designed to handle the necessary amount of water.

In response to his request, the city said,

We understand that your property experienced significant flooding last winter and spring, which leads you to believe, as a “layperson” (your words), that the design did not have “adequate capacity to carry necessary flow.” However, the engineer for the Development designed and the City Engineer reviewed the plans… they concluded the Development met the design standard in question. Neither you nor City staff have the requisite expertise to contradict this conclusion.

When speaking to KOIN 6 News, Stewart said, “It’s been so infuriating. We’ve spent 9 months not knowing whether to laugh or cry about it because it’s just laughable the answers we get from the people who are obviously trying to protect themselves.”

After KOIN 6 News tried to reach the mayor of Hubbard for 6 days, an employee at Hubbard City Hall called the city attorney, who released a statement saying the city is “sympathetic” and is working to “see if there is another way to divert storm water away from the Stewart’s property.”

Jeff Stewart doesn’t blame his new neighbors for his property flooding, he blames the city, Sept. 23, 2017. (KOIN)

However, the city said it “had no legal authority” to stop the development and also noted the “record rainfalls.” According to the city, “the Stewart’s property would have flooded last year regardless of whether their neighbor’s property was developed.”

But Stewart doesn’t believe it. His research shows 9.55 inches of rain fell when his property flooded this past winter. He compared it to 2012 when 8.55 inches fell and his property did not flood. He wants others to hear about his ordeal so “people are aware of what’s going on.”

Tuesday Mayor Thia Estes sent KOIN 6 News a statement indicating she believes the her own city’s process is flawed.

My request to our city attorney for updates were unanswered, yet he was apparently able to discuss the issue with staff, unbeknownst to me. He then put out a Press Release, again, unbeknownst to myself or the majority of Council. I have pushed for meetings between all parties since the beginning of this issue, and that the city recognize and acknowledge any area we need to make changes in, and to bring that to Council for review… It has been of absolute frustration to me that the Stewart’s had yet to receive answers, and that my questions and concerns and that of Council member Williams and Council member Schmidt were largely ignored.”

The property owner next door to Stewart — and his engineer — told him and KOIN 6 News they’re currently redesigning the storm water system. They hope to get approval from ODOT to send the water into the ditch along Highway 99.