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First-time Benton County event brings regional partners together to safeguard against flooding

Official logos lay across a map highlighting blue floodplains. Logos left to right include: National Weather Service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Oregon Silver Jackets Team, Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, and U.S. Geological Survey.

October 4, 2023

Located in the heart of the Willamette River Basin, and with several watersheds flowing through the County, much of Benton County faces the threat of periodic flooding. To help the region minimize these risks, Benton County convened a groundbreaking regional floodplain discussion in coordination with the Oregon Silver Jackets Team, at the Kalapuya Building in Corvallis on September 26.

The discussion brought local, state, and federal partners together to build awareness of available flood maps and tools to improve flood preparedness, protect lives, safeguard property, and effectively communicate flood risks to residents and property owners.

The event drew a diverse group of public sector staff including floodplain administrators, emergency managers, natural hazard planners, civil engineers, surveyors, and other officials from across the Mid-Willamette Valley.

The Oregon Silver Jackets Team includes key federal and state agencies – the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Weather Service, Oregon’s Department of Emergency Management, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, and Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Benton County’s Floodplain Administrator and Senior Planner Toby Lewis was a key convener of the regional event.

“We invited colleagues who work with floodplains and manage flood risks to spend the day together learning about best available tools, and the critical information we all need to prepare for and respond to flood risks. We are collaborating across professions and with state and federal partners, and working together to improve community resilience during flood events,” Lewis said.

Paul Sclafani, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Floodplain Management Services Program Manager, noted the significance of the event.

“The Silver Jackets agencies have recently updated maps in the Willamette River basin. Realizing that this information could be invaluable for the County and other jurisdictions, we wanted to show them what we have,” Sclafani said.

The potential for shared learning and coordination among flood risk managers at all levels inspired Lewis and Sclafani to organize this unique event. Sclafani emphasized the importance of local insight that flood professionals bring to the table and said the first-time event will likely serve as a template for other local jurisdictions in Oregon.

“I appreciate Benton County having the foresight to suggest we conduct this event. It is nice to have someone at the local level (Lewis) who has been around for a long time and brings a level of practicality. That really helps.”

Sclafani added that the event may serve as a template for other Counties in Oregon to have an important opportunity to coordinate with local, state and federal partners.

“One of the things I like most about floodplain work is that it creates opportunities for needed communication and collaboration among a wide variety of audiences and professions. I am incredibly grateful for the enthusiasm with which the presenters and staff embraced the idea for this event. We are all excited to see the new opportunities for collaboration and engagement that will come from today’s conversations,” Lewis explained.

This unprecedented event emphasized the role of floodplain management in safeguarding lives and property, as well as the importance of communicating risks and hazards to the affected community.

Matt Chase, a Dam Safety Program Manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, emphasized the shared responsibility in understanding flood risks saying: “I like to help the public understand their risk; it’s a shared responsibility that I care about,” Chase mentioned.

Dale Meck, a Civil Engineer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), highlighted the federal role in creating maps to aid local governments and individuals make informed decisions.:
“The Federal Government, FEMA, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers make various maps to help local governments and individuals make good decisions about what they do with their property and where they put their infrastructure,” Meck added.

This collaborative effort serves as an example of how proactive floodplain management, including the maps and insights shared, equip Benton County and partners with valuable tools to mitigate the impacts of flooding, protect the community, and support a secure future. As the first of its kind, this event is a testament to the commitment of all involved to create comprehensive and sustainable solutions to the flood hazard challenges faced by the region.

View photos of the event.

Benton County is an Equal Opportunity-Affirmative Action employer and does not discriminate on the basis of disability in admission or access to our programs, services, activities, hiring and employment practices. This document is available in alternative formats and languages upon request. Please contact Cory Grogan at 541-745-4468 or

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