A flood of positive votes passed the bond to fix the levee system along the Walla Walla River in Milton-Freewater.

As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, the $2.85 million bond was passing with 80 percent of the vote in its favor.

‘Yes’ votes totaled 1,659 and made up 80.89 percent, while ‘no’ votes totaled 392 and made up 19.11 percent.

“That’s impressive,” said Manford Anliker, chairman of the Milton-Freewater Water Control Board, the entity responsible for upkeep of the levee system. “That’s only the beginning.”

The bond rate is 62 cents for $1,000 property valuation. That’s equal to about $62 a year for a $100,000 home.

Anliker credited the water control board, the city and city council, the political action committee, MF Do the Math, and cooperation between everyday citizens.

“You’ve had an incredible team effort,” he said. “That’s what’s taken place in this community.”

City Manager Linda Hall agreed.

“This is a community helping itself,” she said. “It wasn’t just one or two people getting behind this thing. It was an entire community.”

Fixing the levee system could bring the community back in the good graces of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. The corps stopped certifying the levee system in 2007 because of the damage it found in its inspections. That led to FEMA drawing flood maps as if the levees didn’t exist and requiring residents and businesses to buy flood insurance.

MF Do the Math used its simple slogan to show voters how much cheaper it is to pay a $62 a year bond compared to thousands of dollars in flood insurance.

The group also held an informational meeting with 200 attendants, published a web site, put up yard signs and hauled a boat around town with a huge sign reading “Vote yes on levee repair or float with me tomorrow!”

Anliker said Paul Seaquist, a local real estate agent, knew the owner of the boat and asked for permission to use it in the campaign. The boat moved around town, sitting at prominent intersections throughout the past two months.

Both Anliker and Hall also cautioned that getting this bond passed is just the beginning. There is still much work to do to take care of the levee problem in Milton-Freewater.

“We have to make sure everything happens and happens in the right order,” Hall said.

The short list of tasks included selling the bond, getting engineering work done, completing the repairs, keeping up with the Army Corps to make sure the levee can be recertified and filing with FEMA to redraw flood maps.

Hall said getting the bond passed is a first step, “but it’s a very, very, very big first step.”

For the past year an Oregon Solutions team has been meeting in Milton-Freewater to find a fix for the levee problem. The biggest goal of that group was to get a bond passed. Now that that has happened, Anliker said the water control district may look to those partners to help pave the road ahead.

Anliker added that while the passing of this bond was a community effort, it is one which will help save the community for the future.

“It’s all about the people. It’s not about us,” he said. “We’re given the responsibility to carry out a task the helps the community. That’s what it’s all about. It’s a team effort, the community pulling together to benefit the whole Walla Walla Valley

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