Sewage plan debate nears new phase
- Rep. Carolyn Tomei
- Clackamas Review - Opinion
As a long-time nextdoor neighbor to the Kellogg Creek sewage treatment plant in Milwaukie, I was greatly disappointed when the Board of County Commissioners rescinded their approval of the plan for closing Kellogg and consolidating wastewater treatment at the Tri-Cities plant in Oregon City. Tasking the CAC to study yet again what had already been the subject of a half-dozen studies over the past decade seemed a waste of both time and money. And to be sure, the cost of the CAC's process has not been cheap - recent CAC reporting indicates that the cost is likely to exceed $500,000.
But as the CAC draws nearer to completion of its mandate, I am encouraged by the openness of their process, and do believe they have done the ratepayers a service in a number of ways.
First, although the cost projections are still undergoing fine-tuning, their August 30 spreadsheet indicates that the consolidation alternative is the least expensive over the 25-year timeframe. By seeking new cost projections from a contractor not involved in earlier studies - and then subjecting those projections to peer review by two other firms - they have validated the finding that consolidation is most cost-effective in the long-term, although costlier than some options over the next decade.
Moreover, the CAC's deliberations have subjected some of the intergovernmental agreements to closer scrutiny. While it seems only fair that Oregon City should be reimbursed for some of the loss to their tax base by devoting a sizable chunk of land to process much of the county's wastewater, the CAC has pointed to the need to better define those costs and more fairly apportion them not only to any new users of the Tri-Cities plant, but also among existing users (the cities of Gladstone and West Linn).
Most importantly, the CAC has cast a spotlight on a longstanding weakness of the County's approach to sewage treatment - the lack of a representative body participating in the governance of the Clackamas County Service District #1. Not only do the ratepayers of CCSD#1 not have a seat at the governance table, neither do residents of Milwaukie (where Kellogg is located) or Damascus (where new demands for capacity are primarily coming from).
Although the Board did not ask the CAC to look at governance in reaching its recommendation for treatment services, the CAC and the cities should hold the Board accountable for ensuring that whatever future path is chosen includes proportional representation for all affected ratepayers.
The CAC is also to be commended for keeping itself open to public input - its meetings always allow for public discussion, CAC members have met with a wide range of community groups and solicited community input via an online survey.
Just a couple of weeks remain for the CAC to make its recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners - while much remains to be considered in these final weeks, the CAC has laid effective groundwork for reaching a recommendation which will meet the needs of its ratepayers and the wider North Clackamas community. The time is right for the CAC and affected jurisdictions to come together to forge a recommendation that best serves the County's wastewater needs for the next quarter century.