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Residents file claims against Brookings

One storm may be over, but another might be brewing in the aftermath of the damage inflicted on homes on Buena Vista Loop in Brookings last November.

Four homeowners along that stretch of road who were affected by floodwaters have so far declined an undisclosed offer from the city’s insurance company for compensation for damage to their homes and the cliffs that slid to the beach below, and have submitted tort claims against the city.

One resident has accepted the settlement, which was described as “an amount approximating the estimated cost of providing a legal defense,” City Manager Gary Milliman wrote in a report to city council.

“The city storm drain system in this area — as well as other areas of town — was overwhelmed by the intensity of this storm,” he said. It rained 6.72 inches in a 24-hour period, which weather officials deemed a 45-year storm event.

City officials have met periodically with the homeowners — most recently, last week — to determine how to proceed with restoration to what’s left of the cliffs that slumped to the beach below.

Thirteen homeowners submitted a letter to the city asking it to build an “escape route” for water in case a 48-inch drainage pipe that collects all the water fails; pay for upgrades to the storm drain system to force water flowing from public streets away from private property; and identify areas of conflict in public and private drainage-ways critical to the overall system.

The council directed Milliman to analyze the issues in the letter and return with ideas when the storm water master plan is unveiled later this fall.

Milliman will address whether the city should pursue a program placing all drains in the public domain and maintained by the city, if it is responsible for building systems that can handle 50- and 100-year floods and if ditches should be converted to pipes.

At issue is to what degree the city is responsible for drains that became clogged by debris that night, sending an “overwhelming” amount of water from Chetco Avenue and Memory Lane into homes below, Milliman said.

A study conducted by Dyer Engineering of Coos Bay determined that the city is not at fault for the publicly owned drains, pipes and ditches, as the city exercised a “reasonable standard of care” in providing infrastructure built to withstand 25-year storms, a norm by which most Oregon municipalities abide. Additionally, the firm said the drain inlet near Memory Lane and Buena Vista Loop was not defective, but recommended changes to improve its function.

Residents along Buena Vista Loop, however, want a bit more, they indicated in a meeting last month.

Toni Mefford, who lives across the street from the affected homes, urged city councilors to take a tour of the area to see firsthand the lay of the land — notably as it slopes from all the publicly owned lands above that neighborhood.

“I’d like this group to come to Buena Vista Loop and see how much Chetco and Memory Lane (slopes) and how it takes everything into Buena Vista Loop,” she said. “You can look at a map, and you can see some areas are flat, but I think it’s important to see for yourself.”

She has a heavy bridge spanning a wide ditch on her property and said in a 1999 flood and the event of 2012, it was washed away.

“The amount of water rushing down through there was incredible,” she said.

Councilors Jake Pieper, Brent Hodges and Mayor Ron Hedenskog said they would be willing to visit the site.

Hedenskog said he believes the majority of the council already knows the area fairly well, as they were there helping residents during the flood.

“I believe Buena Vista Loop is better known to me than the system in my own house,” he said. “I was out on the ground; I saw the damage. I am quite familiar with it.” 

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