A new leader takes the helm of an old system

Portland, Oregon, May 24, 2021 – Longtime communications, natural resources, and public policy executive Jim Middaugh accepted the position of Executive Director of Multnomah County Drainage District (MCDD), one of four special districts that help to protect lives and property from flood risk by managing flood management systems along the lower Columbia River in Multnomah County.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Jim to the team,” said Ken Anderton, Board Chair of MCDD. “Jim’s background and experience will be a great asset to the districts and our community as we continue to work to reduce the risk of flooding along the Columbia River and upgrade the infrastructure and modernize the way we do business.”
Middaugh will begin his role with MCDD on June 1, 2021. He comes to MCDD following his second stint in Portland City Hall where he most recently served as Communications Director for Mayor Ted Wheeler. Before joining the Mayor’s office, Middaugh served as Metro’s Communications Director for 11 years. During his time with Metro, Middaugh managed media relations for the regional government and led a team that supported all facets of communications, marketing, and public engagement. Prior to Metro, Jim spent almost a decade with the City of Portland where he served as Capital Projects Manager, Chief of Staff for then-commissioner Erik Sten, and Science, Fish, and Wildlife Division Manager where he led the city’s initial response to the listing of salmon and steelhead under the federal Endangered Species Act.
As the Executive Director of MCDD, Middaugh will oversee the operations and maintenance of 27-miles of levees, 12 pump stations, and 45-miles of sloughs, canals, and culverts that reduce the risk of flooding for an area that is home to nearly 8,000 residents, 2,500 businesses, 59,000 jobs, and 2,000 acres of parks and natural spaces, as well as critical public assets like the Portland International Airport, an Army National Guard base, and a back-up drinking water supply for nearly a million Oregonians. This infrastructure system is overseen by four independent drainage districts, including MCDD.  Since 1996, MCDD has been the operator and administrator of the system on behalf of all four districts. 
Middaugh will also lead staff in the development of the Urban Flood Safety & Water Quality District (UFSWQD), a new special district established by the Oregon State Legislature in 2019. This new district was created to streamline management of the flood safety infrastructure, and it represents a more modern and sustainable approach for the metro region. The UFSWQD will continue to focus on reducing flood risk and protecting people and property and it has an expanded mandate to promote equity in all aspects of its operations; contribute to water quality, habitat, and landscape resilience; and adapt to the effects of climate change. The transition of the four districts to the UFSWQD will occur once a funding system is in place. That work is currently underway.
“It’s an honor to join the MCDD team in providing critical public safety and flood risk reduction services for a unique region that both serves as a major transportation and economic corridor for the state but is also rich in natural spaces and habitat for birds, fish and wildlife,” said Middaugh. “This is an exciting time of transition for MCDD and I’m looking forward to working with board members, staff, and the community to finish the ongoing efforts to improve the way we manage and fund this important infrastructure.”

MCDD’s mission is to enhance community safety and support the region’s vitality by reducing flood risk, maintaining the Portland Metro Levee System, managing drainage, and responding to flood emergencies. MCDD also serves three other drainage districts along the south shore of the Columbia River (Peninsula Drainage District #1, Peninsula Drainage District #2 and the Sandy Drainage Improvement Company).  The four districts collectively extend from the edge of Smith and Bybee Lakes on the west to the western bank of the Sandy River on the east. To learn more about MCDD and the infrastructure it operates and maintains, please visit www.mcdd.org.