Inundated Heritage Data Collection, Community Outreach, and Public Dissemination, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Department of Defense Engineer Research and Development Center
Posted on:

Application Deadline:

Expired

Type

Fellowships

Reference Number

W81EWF-22-SOI-0016

Background:Congress authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District (Corps) to construct thirteen dams and associated reservoirs for the purposes of flood control, hydropower generation, irrigation, navigation, fish and wildlife, recreation, water supply, and water quality. These projects, built between 1940 and 1969 – collectively referred to as the Willamette Valley Project (WVP) – include Big Cliff, Blue River, Cottage Grove, Cougar, Detroit, Dexter, Dorena, Fall Creek, Fern Ridge, Foster, Green Peter, Hills Creek, and Lookout Point. In addition to construction of the dams and reservoirs, the Corps acquired property, relocated communities, and cleared swaths of pastoral and timber lands that would be inundated. The WVP, which now covers approximately 55,000 acres, significantly influenced human occupation of the landscape in six Willamette Valley watersheds through relocation and displacement. While Corps has a general understanding of the relocations and displacement that occurred, there are several unanswered quantitative and qualitative research questions regarding the true impacts of the WVP on communities, families, and individuals. The Corps has never completed a heritage focused effort to capture the scope and scale of inundation and relocation impacts. Real estate records and design manuals include technical details such as maps, photos, and pricing information, which can answer many quantitative questions about displacement, like how many total acres were cleared and how much was spent on these efforts. However, this data is largely incohesive, unanalyzed, and not widely available or easily accessible to federal employees trying to complete compliance efforts or the public trying to learn more about their communities, families, and historic resources. Further, the current available resources fail to capture the more human element of displacement and answer important research questions about public experiences with the Corps from the 1930s until the 1960s, and how this historic understanding continues to shape local communities’ current perspectives and interactions with the Corps. The Corps also lacks information regarding the impact of WVP reservoir inundation on tribal communities and the loss of traditional land use areas. The WVP offers an exceptional opportunity to research how the Corps’ actions and policies from the 1930s to 1960s shaped communities local to the thirteen projects, how the historic implications of relocation and displacement continues to shape contemporary perceptions of the agency, and how lessons learned from these historic interactions can guide future public engagement and outreach strategies to be more meaningful and successful. While initial authorization called for the construction of seven dams, only three were started (two completed) prior to World War II when the project was for the sole purpose of flood control. After World War II, Congress authorized more dams and added hydropower and recreation to many of these projects, which substantially changed planning efforts. The Willamette Valley saw a drastic increase in population following World War II and the Corps had to reconsider original placement of some dams given the increasing impacts on communities and project costs of relocation. Construction continued into the 1950s and 1960s. During this time, many Indian Tribes who ascribe significance to the Willamette Valley lost federal recognition due to termination policy. It was also during this time the growing environmental movement began to pressure the Corps to consider impacts to fish, wildlife, and habitat. These topics are unstudied at the WVP but have direct implications on the past and present sense of place for those who were displaced because of dam construction and directly influence the framework for the Corps’ public engagement in the Willamette Valley. The Corps’ management of the WVP continues to directly influence local communities in ways that may significantly change human land use patterns, economies, and access to resources. One example includes the finalization of the Willamette Valley Systems Environmental Impact Statement (2024), where the Corps will be reconsidering the ongoing operations and maintenance of the WVP. The Willamette Valley has also been hard hit by catastrophic wildfire and storm events in the last few years. Between climate change and required shifts made by the Corps for the long-term preservation of endangered fish species, today’s management of the WVP will not be sustainable in the future. To determine how to best engage with the communities that are most likely to be impacted by impending changes to Corps’ management and practices, it is essential to fully understand the history of a place, how communities historically interacted with and remember those first experiences with the Corps, and how this history carries over into their current understanding of the Corps. With this understanding and appreciation, future public interactions in the Willamette Valley can be more equitable, inclusive, and successful. Brief Description of Anticipated Work: The purpose of this project is to develop and implement research methodologies to effectively and collaboratively collect community histories about relocations and displacements that occurred as a result of constructing the WVP. This will require bringing together multiple academic fields, including history, anthropology, and geography. This work will not only develop innovative research methodologies for collecting and analyzing more community centered history but will also test the effectiveness of that methodology and public outreach in real time. If proven effective, these research tools and outreach methods can be incorporated into the Corps’ operating procedures for environmental compliance, interpretation programming, and more broad public engagement efforts using shared history, heritage, and understanding as a foundation. This work will consider the regional perspective, individual projects, individual towns, and individual families. In addition to closing several qualitative and quantitative data gaps (noted above), research for the project will pull together information from disparate sources and provide innovative ways to educate and engage local communities in publicly accessible formats. This project will research, analyze, and distribute community knowledge and history regarding relocations and displacements resulting from the construction of the WVP. There are four primary objectives: 1. Establish and implement an innovative research methodology to collect, analyze, and share community history on a diverse range of heritage resources (e.g., buildings, sites, land uses, oral histories, traditions, artifacts) impacted by dam construction and reservoir inundation in the Willamette Valley. This objective will be best supported by accessing a wide variety of research resources, including federal, tribal, state, and local repositories, and then identifying collections that offer historic insight on place, use, and change. Using comprehensive resources and relying on best research practices from the academic fields of history, anthropology, and geography will create a one-of-a-kind historic narrative on displacement and relocation. 2. Establish and implement effective and collaborative methods to engage with community members regarding the history of the WVP specifically focused on the relocations, displacements, and other changes that resulted from construction and inundation. This will include developing best practices for consulting and partnering with a variety of communities, including Indian Tribes, to collect and share community focused history. The emphasis should be on both gathering information and giving information back to the community in a format that supports existing heritage goals. This objective will be best supported by utilizing several tools including in-person, digital, and hybrid formats. Once established and implemented, these outreach and public engagement methods can be adapted and applied to a variety of Corps’ projects – including NEPA public outreach requirements, development of interpretive programming, and other good neighbor best practices. 3. Support ongoing cultural and natural resource management decisions to allow for the better incorporation of more localized and traditional knowledge, and methods to best communicate and engage with communities being directly impacted by those management decisions. This research project will engage with Indian Tribes to identify former locations of traditional use that could inform restoration projects and resource accessibility. This project will also support improved current and future management of cultural resources within the WVP and contribute to the greater regional understanding of cultural resources for all researchers working in the Pacific Northwest. Research can be used in the future for predictability models and programmatic approaches to compliance efforts which will help streamline processes and better utilize limited resources. 4. Train undergraduate and graduate students in the research, analysis, and widespread dissemination of community focused history. Students will get priceless firsthand experience in more traditional research methodologies (digging through archive boxes, analyzing primary and secondary sources) and also ways to collect history through crowdsourcing and working directly with communities (e.g., oral histories). Further, they will become familiar with digital programs like georeferencing, scanning to appropriate resolutions based on material type, and the chosen digital platform for disseminating results. Broadly, the tasks required to complete the above objectives include:Research: Review existing historic records available from the Corps, Indian Tribes, state, local, and other federal repositories. Included with research is the digitization of relevant records, as appropriate, for accessible public distribution.Community Outreach: Consult with communities and individuals to collect oral histories, materials (photos, artifacts, unpublished documents, etc.), recollections, and other information about the Willamette Valley before, during, and after project construction. Included with this task is hosting community history collection events and creating a safe, welcoming space for the public to consider what relocation and displacement meant for their history, heritage, and sense of place.Analysis and Development: Use findings from the research and community outreach tasks to develop a publicly accessible way to disseminate the shared history of relocation and displacement. This requires developing appropriate written materials that are enhanced by visuals and audio. A report on methodology, effectiveness (see below), and best practices for similar implementation at other Corps’ projects should also be developed.Public Distribution: Launch and publicize the results of this project to local communities, heritage organizations, academic organizations, and the public. Given the holistic nature of the research methodologies, the findings, analysis, and lessons learned should be presented widely within the Portland District, the Corps, the local community, and academic organizations.Effectiveness: Consider the effectiveness of research methodology, community outreach efforts, analysis, and public dissemination using both quantitative and qualitative factors. In addition to identifying successful methods, effectiveness should also examine how methods can be best adapted or improved for implementation at future projects. A robust discussion about how the Corps can adjust public outreach with communities that have been historically impacted by inundation for more successful future engagement should also be included. This can be incorporated with reporting (see above) but is called out separately to emphasize the importance. The investigator will develop a multi-year plan to research, analyze, and distribute community knowledge and history regarding relocations and displacements resulting from the construction of the WVP. The investigator will identify several research questions and avenues that may be explored over the life of the agreement that consider 1) unique and effective ways to document local history through both traditional sources and community focused collection, 2) ways to conduct meaningful public outreach and engagement to better understand the history of local communities and the Corps’ interactions and impacts, and 3) ways that federal agencies can meaningfully engage with local communities particularly when management actions may drastically impact the individual, household, and community level.
Categories: Science and Technology and other Research and Development.

More Information

Posted on:

Application Deadline:

Expired

Type

Fellowships

Reference Number

W81EWF-22-SOI-0016

Cottage%20Grove%2C%20United%20States

Cottage Grove , United States