The following article ran in the Wednesday, Jan. 16, 1974, edition of the Albany Democrat-Herald.
Albany engineering staff members aren't sure a drainage system can be designed — within economical reason — to handle rainstorms of 2 inches in 12 hours.
Rainfall in the last 24 hours ending at 7 a.m. Wednesday was almost 3 inches. And that put severe strain on the city's drainage system, causing Mayor Platt Davis to call a special city council meeting Tuesday to discuss the problem.
Engineers said the work which will give the greatest relief is completion of a Periwinkle Creek cleaning and widening project and separation of the city's storm drainage and sanitary sewer collection lines.
The Periwinkle project first was proposed by the city as part of the Southeast Redevelopment Project and was to have been done in 1971. But then the U.S. Soil Conservation Service suggested a cooperative venture on a Periwinkle project of larger scope.
Following a series of delays, the Soil Conservation Service finally approved the project in October and despite repeated response of having designs completed "in a few weeks," the Portland engineering staff of SCS still has not produced drawings so the work can go to bid.
The two storm drain separation projects have been suggested from time to time for the past 15 years but never have received property-owner approval of necessary assessments.
Robert Jossis, civil engineer for the city, said Tuesday the west central storm drain project, covering an area of the city east of Washington Street and north of Queen Avenue, would cost about $1.3 million.
The east central storm drain project covers Ferry to Hill streets north of Queen Avenue. The total project of $1.26 million involves two phases, one south of Pacific Boulevard and the other north. Connecting the two phases would have to be a 60-inch diameter tunnel of at least 120 feet length under the railroad yards.
Average assessment for a typical residential lot in this area would be $644.
Jossis said these costs are up 13 percent from two years ago when the projects last were considered but dropped before even coming to a public hearing.
At the special council study session Tuesday, Davis directed the engineering staff to come up with refined cost estimates and other alternatives for correcting the drainage problem, for consideration at the council's regular meeting next Wednesday night.
Noting continued flooding at the Queen Avenue/Geary Street intersection, Councilman David Hayes asked whether the city staff could be objective enough to see the problem. He suggested an outside consulting firm.
City Manager Larry L. Rice said the Soil Conservation Service in effect is an outside firm and said the city's street design was in anticipation of prior completion of the Periwinkle project.
Several property owners at the council study session complained of the health hazard when the overloaded sewers result in untreated sewage backing up into basements. Rice said this could be stopped if the storm drain projects eliminate need to put storm water into domestic sewage lines.
Watertight lids on domestic sewage-line manhole covers also would help. At present, when stormwater floods a street, it goes in manhole covers as well as catch basins.
The Rev. Herbert Boehne, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church said two urinals and six stools in basement restrooms of the church "look like Niagara Falls" because of city sewage backing up in them.
And Mrs. Ellis Byer said she had called the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to look at the hazards of raw sewage in basements throughout her neighborhood.
Rice said DEQ has authority to force separation of the storm drains from the sanitary sewers. DEQ hasn't used this authority because the problem exists in almost every major city of the state.
Rice said if the DEQ begins enforcing such segregation of sewer and drain lines, there will be some federal assistance, but most of the cost still will be paid by the property owner.