USA – Oregon wildfire cleanup is advancing, with $50 million coming from the Oregon State Legislature.
A release from the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Oregon Debris Management Task Force said last week the state’s Joint Legislative Emergency Board approved the funds to begin the work in eight counties affected by wildfires, including Douglas.
The release said the 2020 Labor Day fires were the largest and most expensive disaster in Oregon’s history. Nine Oregonians lost their lives, more than one million acres burned, and over 5,000 homes and businesses were destroyed. The state has transitioned from immediate fire response to statewide recovery.
ODOT Director Kris Strickler said the level of damage and the magnitude of loss to Oregon’s communities cannot be overstated. He said collective efforts to rebuild will be “…long-term, challenging, and will demand strong partnerships at all levels”.
The release said preparing to rebuild requires that the debris left behind be cleaned up first. It said removing household hazardous waste, hazard trees, and other ash and structural debris will be a lengthy and expensive process.
Step 1 of the cleanup process is fully funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state of Oregon and is already underway in some counties. Step 2 will be the removal of ash and debris.
As the lead contracting agency for Step 2, ODOT will oversee the cleanup efforts, awarding contracts for ash and debris removal. ODOT has already begun removal of hazard trees across the state. That is a process that could take nine months to complete. The estimated timeline for ash and debris cleanup completion is 6 to 18 months and includes considerations such as weather impacts, property access limitations and geographic scope.
The release said ODOT will work in close partnership with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Office of Emergency Management, local governments, property owners and private sector partners.
Initial estimates put the debris cleanup tally at over $600 million. That includes $326 million for ash and debris removal and $295 million to remove damaged trees. That estimate is preliminary and is likely to change.