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County starts wastewater community dialog

Clackamas County decided last week to appoint a citizens task force to look at the long-term needs of the region's wastewater treatment demands - and do it quickly.

The Board of County Commissioners (BCC) said it is creating the task force immediately and asking it to report back in April on recommendations about how communities may voluntarily build a shared, cost-efficient system that will serve wastewater treatment needs decades into the future.

At the same time, the BCC decided to suspend the Clackamas County Service District No. 1 (CCSD#1) new plant process after hearing a briefing from Water Environment Services director Mike Kuenzi at its Jan. 2 work session.

'We prefer looking at a community solution to our wastewater issues rather than authorize a go-it-alone plan,' stated County Chair Martha Schrader.

'After seeing the proposed costs of a new plant, we have decided that the best interest of everyone involved is to seek another strategic option to meet the long-term needs of CCSD#1, and the broader urban community,' said Commissioner Lynn Peterson. 'We simply cannot ask our ratepayers to pay upwards of $150 per month for a new plant.'

The BCC unanimously agreed to launch the community task force to examine ways to manage and fund the wastewater management needs of urban Clackamas County. The task force will be led by Greg DeGrazia, a local business leader.

If no community solution can be found, the BCC said it would have no choice but to return to expensive, single-district approaches to wastewater management.

Wastewater challenges are not restricted to CCSD#1 alone, according to Kuenzi. Regardless of whether it is near or far, all service districts within Clackamas County will be faced with environmental and growth challenges in the future.

With that in mind, Kuenzi said community leaders from Damascus, Gladstone, Happy Valley, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, Oregon City, West Linn, Oak Lodge Sanitary District and representatives from unincorporated North Clackamas County would be invited to participate in the discussions.

These community partners will be asked to address specific questions about the cost benefit of a collective approach, agree on equity and fairness issues, and ensure adequate partner participation in future policy and investment decisions.

'Clackamas County has been discussing options for wastewater management for more than a decade. The time has come for us to stop talking and to decide how we will move forward,' said Commissioner Bill Kennemer. 'I am very optimistic that our stakeholders will find equitable and common-sense solutions.'

For questions or concerns, visit the WES Web site at www.clackamas.us/wes or call S.J. Brown at (503) 353-4561.