The Linn County Board of Commissioners has issued an emergency declaration due to flooding that has occurred in the county and throughout the mid-valley this week.

Board chairman Roger Nyquist and Commissioner Will Tucker held a special meeting Thursday morning. Commissioner John Lindsey was not present.

“The good news is that to our knowledge, there has not been any loss of life,” Nyquist said. “This also reminds us of how interconnected we are in the mid-valley in terms of residents traveling to and from their places of employment. When a major highway is turned into a river, it seriously affects traffic flow for all of us.”

For two days, Highway 34 has been closed near the Linn and Benton county line, forcing traffic onto Highway 20 and clogging Albany streets for hours at morning and afternoon rush hours. 

Joe Larsen of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office told the commissioners the declaration will allow the county to assess damage and calculate estimated losses. That information will be submitted to the state of Oregon and possibly on to the federal level if a national disaster is made for Oregon.

Robert Wheeldon, director of the Linn County Planning and Building Department, said the county’s Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan is up to date and that will allow the county to be considered for FEMA funding.

Linn County Assessor Andy Stevens reminded the commissioners that, like the flood of ’96, county residents will be able to have their current taxes pro-rated or to have their properties re-assessed because the incident “is an act of God.”

“We are encouraging anyone with property damage to contact our office as soon as possible,” Stevens said.

The public can contact the Assessor’s Office at 541-967-3808.

Wayne Mink of the Linn County Road Department, said staff had completed its annual survey of bridges before the event and will now have to take another look.

Mink said flooding is appearing in places where it hasn’t in past years.

He said the county staff will surely have a lot of debris clean up once flood waters recede.

Nyquist said both the Road Department and Sheriff’s Office, “have done a very good job getting out in front of this.”

Linn County has closed Waterloo County Park due to the potential for high water to cover the road into the parking lot area, Parks Director Brian Carroll said later Thursday morning.

Carroll said the county could not take the risk of having campers trapped if the South Santiam River water level crested at the point the road would be covered overnight.

He is also concerned that docks at both Foster and Green Peter reservoirs may have been damaged due to high water levels. He said the floats may have been pushed beyond their useable stop marks.

Carroll is also concerned about the amount of debris in the reservoirs. There is a large amount of debris at the boom that protects Foster Dam.

Carroll said the Corps of Engineers usually keeps that area clear of debris, but in the past, Linn County has partnered with the city of Sweet Home to sweep other parts of the reservoir to make it safer for boaters during the summer recreation season.

The Corps usually keeps the water level in Foster Reservoir up near full pool by the Memorial Day weekend, but recent rains have filled what had been depleted water levels. Carroll said he doesn’t know how the Corps will mitigate the water level after the current weather issue subsides.

It’s possible the water levels will have to be decreased to make room for the possibility of more spring storms.

Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.

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