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Tigards water picture begins to clear

City officials are ready to buy into a partnership with Lake Oswego for Clackamas River water

Tigard's sometimes murky water future cleared Tuesday night following a joint meeting between Tigard and Lake Oswego governments on a proposal for both cities to fund new water-feed infrastructure on the Clackamas River.

For Tigard, which has been playing something of a poker match between a handful of water options, the meeting resulted in a cautious pledge for full buy-in to the Lake Oswego option, called the Lake Oswego Expansion and Water Partnership.

'This is our preferred option, yes,' said Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen at the meeting.

What follows will be swift action from staff of both cities working together to draft a formal agreement over the next month and a half that will spell out the fine details.

Joel Komarek, the city engineer for Lake Oswego, said it will cost $135 million to build the infrastructure to bring water from the Clackamas River to both cities.

Tigard would shoulder $82 million in costs, reducing Lake Oswego's anticipated outlay from $78 million to $53 million, Komarek said.

Tigard officials tout the Lake Oswego option as the least expensive to its ratepayers of three other options the city is exploring.

Tigard currently purchases around 90 percent of its water supply from the city of Portland, which is predominately fed by the Bull Run River. Expensive habitat restoration projects planned for the Bull Run watershed are anticipated to drive up future water rates, a cost expected to be passed on to Portland's wholesale water purchasers, such as Tigard and its residents.

The Tigard contract with Portland expires in 2016.

Tigard leaders first opened talks with Lake Oswego in 2006, about the time the full impact of the Bull Run projects was sinking in.

A strong attraction for Tigard officials to the Lake Oswego option is the promise of joint ownership in a water-delivery system, a first for the city. With that ownership piece, Tigard city officials say they could use dollars collected from new construction within the city to hold down ratepayer costs.

Under the agreement, Tigard would be fed 14 million gallons of water daily from Lake Oswego's 38 million gallon daily water rights on the Clackamas River. While that feed would serve as the city's dominate supply source, Tigard would still have options in place to purchase water from Portland and to pull from its reservoirs and wells during periods of high demand and strained supply.

Lake Oswego would retain sole control over its water rights on the Clackamas River.

Craig Prosser, Tigard city manager, said he expects a quick segue into the public hearing process prior to a final agreement with Lake Oswego.

'I personally don't think we need to wait until we have all of the wording of that agreement worked out in fine detail before we start the public-involvement process,' Prosser said.

Lake Oswego has its own time pressures to deal with, including an aged water treatment plant and supply line struggling to match demand.

Other water options considered for Tigard include:

n The Tualatin Basin Water Supply Project - a proposal orchestrated by Clean Water Services to raise the level of Hagg Lake near the eastern foothills of the coastal mountain range.

n The Willamette River Treatment and Transmission Project - the possibility of tapping into a proposed Sherwood expansion line of the Tualatin Valley Water District.

n A Portland Water Purchase Agreement - the option to keep Portland as primary supplier. This option factors out to be the highest long-term water rate for Tigard customers.

A contract provision with the Tualatin Basin Water Supply Project was steering Tigard to make a decision and a $3 million investment in the Hagg Lake project by June, though the city has since been granted a reprieve that allows it to withhold that commitment while keeping the option open to later invest in that project if the other options fold.

A handful of local agencies have partnered in the project that proposes raising Hagg Lake either 25 or 40 feet. Once raised, the lake would serve as regional water feed, serving several municipalities.

(Lee van der Voo of the Lake Oswego Review contributed to this story.)