MILTON-FREEWATER - The Milton-Freewater Water Control District is turning to voters again to fund much-needed repairs to the Walla Walla River Levee system.

"The issue has not gone away, it's just becoming more acute," said Water Control District Board Chairman George Gillette.

The district tried to pass a bond last May, but was unsuccessful because of the double majority rule - one it faces again in the November election.

In order for the bond to pass, more than 50 percent of the voters must vote, and a majority of those must vote for the bond.

If the bond fails to pass again, Gillette doubted the district would have time for another vote before the Federal Emergency Management Agency issues its new assessment maps in fall 2008.

If FEMA issues the maps with the damage yet to be repaired, it will essentially show the district under water, Gillette said. This will mean an increase in flood insurance for those who live there.

The bond is unchanged from the past measure, asking for a total of $1.5 million. If approved, it will repair damage done to a drop structure on the downstream side of Nursery Bridge and two levee toe erosions - one downstream from Nursery Bridge and another downstream from the Couse Creek Road Bridge.

A drop structure is a waterfall-like structure that runs across the river. Below the drop structure, the water falls into a stilling basin, a curved depression that extends about 40-50 feet downstream.

As water runs over the drop structure and into the basin, sediment, gravel and stones fall with it, eroding holes in the stilling basin.

The tax will only apply to those within the water control district, which extends from the Joe West Bridge north to the state line and from the Old Milton Highway eastward to Telephone Pole Road.

Unlike before, the tax comes to 43 cents per $1,000 of assessed value tax on property. Previously, it was 30 cents. Gillette said the change is due to changes in the bond market.

The district will only buy as many bonds as needed to finance the repairs, Gillette said.

He put preliminary estimates for repairs to the drop structure between $600,000 and $700,000. However, due to increasing materials costs, the project may cost more, which is why the bond is for $1.5 million.

The water control district first became aware of the need for repairs last February when a study by FEMA deemed the Walla Walla levee system in Milton-Freewater "unacceptably maintained."

At the time, Gillette said the lack of repair was due to a lack of funds. The bond is expected to bridge the gap and allow the district to make the needed repairs.

Since last spring, Gillette said the district has put a temporary fix on the drop structure by dropping 3- to 4-foot-diameter boulders, called rip-rap, into the holes at the bottom of the stilling basin just below the drop structure by Nursery Bridge.

"We've tried to armor those holes so when we go through this winter, we don't have larger holes when we're done," Gillette said. "But there's no guarantee."

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