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LOIS: Marvels and challenges

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Our new energy-saving, safe and reliable wastewater system in Oswego Lake is now finished, on time and under budget. The project team managed to protect the lake environment, minimize impacts to the recreational season and keep the public safe throughout the project, and on behalf of the entire council, we are very proud of that. Wastewater overflows due to a too-small interceptor pipeline are now a thing of the past. Residents will have clean water and reliable wastewater service for decades to come.

In spite of its marvel, the project was not without its challenges. Both the marvel and the challenges of Lake Oswego Interceptor Sewer (LOIS) were acknowledged earlier this month by the Association of General Contractors (AGC), Oregon-Columbia Chapter. AGC awarded the LOIS project a SIR (Strength, Integrity and Responsibility) award. The SIR is AGC's highest honor, acknowledging individuals, organizations or agencies for their 'outstanding skills, conduct, abilities and accomplishments.' Lake Oswegans can be proud of this top honor as it reflects well on the skills of the city's project management team and the oversight by your elected officials.

Here is some background on the marvels and the challenges: A small, 11-foot wide boat ramp at the Lake Corporation provided the only way to get barges and equipment into the lake for the first half of the project. The city had to purchase two small residential sites in order to build a trestle dock from which it conducted pipe welding and access for the second half of the project. Maneuvering specialty equipment and materials through narrow city streets to access the project through Lake Corporation recreational easements was another difficult task. Neighbors were extremely tolerant and their patience is appreciated.

LOIS's unique design included installing the 20,000 lineal feet of pipeline to be fastened to bedrock below lake sediments. The geology beneath Oswego Lake is unique to all of Oregon, containing a diverse mixture rock types, gravels and sediments. Specialty equipment and state-of-the-art survey systems were used as contractors prepared themselves for the highly variable subsurface geology.

The margin for error in the installation of 420 anchors needed to hold the pipeline in place was very small. Each of the anchors (some drilled through 270 feet before finding bedrock) had to be set within inches of its target location beneath water, mud and gravel. Attaching hardware to each of these anchors required divers to make three trips to the lake bottom or the underwater pipe.

Another unprecedented aspect of this project was the way in which we communicated with citizens. Every effort was made to anticipate potential construction activities and impacts to citizens and deliver that information in the most effective way possible.

In its first two years, the LOIS Team hosted more than 85 public outreach meetings with neighborhood and business groups, individuals and civic organizations, instituted a telephone hotline and launched a comprehensive website. The outreach team produced explanatory videos, set up informational displays at city events, developed social media and delivered personalized electronic newsletters. They even coordinated door-to-door neighborhood advisories for events that would have traffic, noise or visual impacts such as the arrival of large cranes, pile installation, equipment mobilization. All in keeping with the project's unofficial motto of 'no surprises.'

While I am glad that LOIS is over, I will continue to marvel at what we, as a community, accomplished.

Jack Hoffman is mayor of Lake Oswego.