In 1997, Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services developed the Johnson Creek Willing Seller Land Acquisition Program (JCWSLAP). The program helps move people and property out of areas that frequently flood. Additionally, the city places deed restrictions on purchased properties designating them as open space in perpetuity and ensuring no future expenditure of federal disaster assistance funds for the property.
In October of 1996, the Portland City Council adopted the Flood and Landslide Hazard Mitigation Plan, which recommends acquisition of the most vulnerable properties. JCWSLAP offers fair market value to willing sellers. JCWSLAP is also producing an implementation strategy for the Johnson Creek Restoration Plan which addresses “nuisance” flooding, water quality problems, fish declines, wildlife declines and identifies common solutions to restore natural floodplain functions. Since the program began in 1997, over 70 structures have been removed from the floodplain and 107 acres are in permanent conservation. Many of the properties have now been used to create constructed wetlands, floodplain terraces and open space for flood management, habitat and passive recreation purposes.
Implementation & Funding
The program’s total budget since 1997 has been about $8.7 million. Following major floods, Portland received three FEMA HMGPs, totaling more than $1.1 million. Those funds were combined with $1.5 million in CDBG funds and money from the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) ($1,625,000 + $300,000 per year through 2007), the parks department ($1 million), and the metropolitan planning commission ($626,250) to fund the program from 1997 to 2000. Funding from the parks department, combined with BES dollars, supported the program from 2001-2002. Since then, BES has been the sole provider of funding for the Willing Seller Program. Some of the BES funds came from a $3 million FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant the organization submitted for construction of a flood mitigation program.
Homeowners in Portland were given the opportunity to move from flood-prone areas, while retaining the fair market value of their homes. The residents of Portland can also enjoy recreational activities through the strategies brought about by the Johnson Creek Restoration Plan.