The year 2022 has already been fruitful for two major projects in Clackamas County, after acts of Congress and the Oregon State Legislature have secured more than $100 million for the new courthouse and replacement of the Willamette Falls Locks.
At the end of the 2022 session, the Legislature provided Clackamas County with $94.5 million to construct a new courthouse.
Built in 1936 to serve fewer than 50,000 residents, officials have long said the current courthouse can no longer handle the demands of a population of nearly 420,000 that continues to grow. The current courthouse also faces seismic risks, safety concerns and security issues.
The new courthouse is currently estimated to cost $189 million, with the state’s contribution covering half of the cost. The new courthouse will be located on the county’s Red Soils campus and, upon completion in 2025, will meet projected judicial needs for the next 50 years.
“We are so grateful to legislative leaders, and in particular the members of the Clackamas Caucus, who have helped us strengthen our public safety system in Clackamas County,” said Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith. “Securing state funding allows Clackamas County to build this courthouse without raising taxes.”
In additiona, a federal bill signed by President Joe Biden on Tuesday, March 15, brought an additional $6.2 million to Clackamas County in congressionally directed spending for the Willamette Falls Locks.
“Clackamas County has supported the repair and reopening of the Willamette Falls Locks since 2014,” Smith said. “We are grateful to Senators Wyden and Merkley and Congressman Schrader for their leadership to secure this funding for this important regional asset.”
Located in Clackamas County within the City of West Linn, the locks unite the upper and lower Willamette River and were the oldest continuously operating multi-lock system in the United States before being placed into caretaker status by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2011 due to safety concerns.
The $6.2 million in funding will go to complete work that will improve the seismic stability of the walls around the upriver gates of the locks.
The improvements will preserve the water table for renewable energy generation at Portland General Electric’s Sullivan Power Plant, as well as salmon and steelhead habitat protection in the upper Willamette.
The corps identified these essential repairs as being needed before the locks can be transferred to a new non-federal owner.
In 2021, the Oregon Legislature established the new Willamette Falls Locks Authority, which will receive the 149-year-old Locks and be tasked with restoring upriver access and bolstering economic growth along the Willamette River.
The Oregon Legislature has made available $7.25 million for the authority to make additional repairs that will address the safety and operational issues that closed the locks in 2011. The authority plans to meet before summer 2022.
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