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Water plant expansion on hold

Plant and pipeline applications will be combined

Plans for expanding the Lake Oswego water treatment plant in West Linn have been put on hold for the time being.

The Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership (LOT) submitted a letter to the West Linn Planning Commission during its May 16 meeting asking to suspend hearings on the matter.

The main reason behind the suspension is so LOT can combine the water treatment plant expansion application with its related pipeline application, which should be submitted to the city of West Linn mid-June.

'We have heard considerable comment from both commissioners and the public about the subsequent water line application, which is not yet filed,' said Ed Sullivan, an attorney who represents LOT.

During its meeting, the planning commission moved to suspend the hearings on the water treatment plant application to a future unset date. This was the fourth in a series of hearings on the subject, encompassing hours of public testimony.

The proposed water plant expansion aims to address future needs for both the cities of Lake Oswego and Tigard.

Lake Oswego has operated a water treatment plant between Kenthorpe Way and Mapleton Drive in West Linn's Robinwood neighborhood since 1968. In cooperation with the city of Tigard, Lake Oswego now wants to expand the plant and run a new pipeline to address the future water needs of both cities.

The plant, which will hold up to 3 million stored gallons of water underground and handle up to 38 million gallons each day, also serves as an emergency backup water supply for West Linn.

The project also involves the installation of a 4-foot-wide pipeline from the Clackamas River, down Highway 43, including through a portion of Mary S. Young State Park, to the water treatment plant.

If approved, the phased expansion of the plant is expected to begin in spring 2013, and the entire project, including the pipeline, will be complete in fall 2015, with a total construction period of two and a half years.

West Linn residents have continually expressed concern about the plant expansion and pipeline installation. Residents testifying against the expansion cited concerns about years of disruption, reduced property values, noise, light, construction traffic, risk of flooding and burst pipes, chemicals and the appropriateness of the site.

Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership officials initially wanted to separate the plant and pipeline applications to expedite the process and start construction on the plant expansion. But, after hearing from the planning commission and the community, LOT asked the commission to hear the two applications together.

'It will allow you to deal with the entire project,' Sullivan said.

Another reason listed by LOT for suspending the hearing is to address the Lake Oswego and West Linn emergency water agreement. Under an existing agreement with Lake Oswego, West Linn has an intertie at Old River Road and Kenthorpe Way that the city can tap into in an emergency. However, with the current water supply, Lake Oswego cannot guarantee extra water in an emergency during peak water use seasons. With the plant expansion and the formation of LOT, West Linn will need to enter into a new agreement.

With the expansion, LOT officials said about 6 million gallons of daily emergency water will continue to be available for West Linn into 2021 during peak times and through 2041 in nonpeak times. The intertie has long been listed as the main benefit of the project to the citizens of West Linn, a determining factor in the LOT application's approval.

'The issue of public benefit to the city of West Linn was exhaustively discussed during the commission hearings,' Sullivan wrote in his letter to the commission. 'We'd like the opportunity to sit down with city staff and talk with them about coming up with an arrangement for water that is more complete, more certain, so that you may have that as part of your consideration.'

The final reason for suspending the hearing, according to Sullivan, is to meet with West Linn neighbors again and work on further mitigation.

'We are aware there are further folks who will not abide by our application under any circumstance; on the other hand, we want to be able to talk with those that are willing to talk with us and see if there are further opportunities for mitigation,' Sullivan said.

After the pipeline application is received, it will go through city review and then on to public hearings, which are expected to resume this fall. All prior testimony on the water treatment plant will stay on the record and follow the application.

'We believe the residents of West Linn deserve a thorough and thoughtful response to their concerns,' wrote Lake Oswego Mayor Jack Hoffman and Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen in a May 16 letter to the commission. 'Delay allows us to return to the planning commission later this year with new and clearer information about the benefits of our proposed project for the citizens of West Linn.'

All affected residents will be notified in the fall when a public hearing regarding the plant and the pipeline is set.

'I want to compliment the applicant for listening to the testimony and addressing these issues and taking action to deal with them,' West Linn Planning Commissioner Robert Miller said. 'I also want to acknowledge all the people who testified. … I hope you see that this is the process working, that because you did express yourself, the applicant did hear it and did respond. I hope everyone on both sides continues in that spirit and we'll come to a conclusion that satisfies everyone.'