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Newest sewer line staging area is no more popular than the first one

by: VERN UYETAKE, Doug Oliphant stands in front of his Allen Road home. The street, and an easement there, will see heavy construction when the city of Lake Oswego begins building its main sewer system in Oswego Lake in 2009.

Frustrated residents along the Oswego Lake canals are blaming users of the Lake Grove Swim Park for forcing construction of the city's massive sewer project onto their neighborhood streets.

Three of those streets - Maple Circle, Alder Circle and Allen Road - will be ground zero for much of the construction on the Lake Oswego Interceptor Sewer.

The project replaces an ailing sewer pipe in Oswego Lake with a one-of-kind floating pipeline. It is the biggest public works project ever undertaken in Lake Oswego and among the most complicated sewer projects in the world.

When major construction begins in 2009, residents on Maple Circle, Allen Road and Alder Circle will begin to shoulder much of the daily disruption of construction.

Alder Circle and Allen Road will see 16 dump trucks a day for six months, eight on each road, carrying dirt in and out of the construction site. City shuttles will bus employees to and from the job, dropping them off on Maple Circle, along with tools and deliveries. Parts of Maple Circle will be excavated for a stretch of pipe.

And as thousands of feet of pipe are fused for the job, a lakefront easement on Alder Circle will be home to the construction crews. They will remove trees, create temporary roads and docks and, over time, build one of the most complicated pipelines known to man, tethering it to the floor of Oswego Lake.

But as the massive construction project takes hold, residents on the north ends of the canals say they will shoulder more than their fair share of the construction burden. They blame pushback from swim park users for the growing construction schedules for their streets.

City officials had previously planned to stage much of the sewer construction at the Lake Grove Swim Park. But swimmers pointed to land deeds that prevent the park from being closed for anything unrelated to recreation when that idea became public in June.

They threatened to ask the courts to stop the project, prompting the Lake Oswego School District to set a half-time construction schedule that would allow for swimmers to use the park during construction.

City officials say they can't accommodate the schedule, which would add another year to the job. The project timeline has already been shortened by the city's inability to strike a deal with the job's chief contractor. With pressure from the state to move forward, construction plans have had to shift.

Unfortunately for canal-area residents, plans have shifted to their neighborhoods, and some are angry.

'People are so shortsighted,' said George Benson, who lives on Maple Circle. 'They are thinking about two months of the summer for kids not to be swimming but this impacts this whole area. We are carrying the load for the whole lake.'

Benson is among a handful of homeowners who learned of the change in construction plans Sept. 10 at a meeting held by the city.

Though he and other residents say they knew the streets on the north end of the canals area would be used for construction, opposition to construction from swim park users is increasing their woes.

Pipe fusing, originally planned to take place at the swim park, will now occur off Allen Road. Construction along three of the canal streets will now take one year longer than the nine months planned, stretching from September 2009 to June 2010 on Alder Circle and Allen Road, and from June 2009 to June 2011 on Maple Circle.

'We're talking about 3,800 dump trucks of dirt. We're talking about 16 in and 16 out a day,' said Doug Oliphant, who lives on Allen Road.

His home is one lot in from the end of the street, where trucks will carry soil and pipe in and out of the eastment for 10 hours a day, six days a week.

Both Oliphant and Benson say they wonder whether truck traffic will turn their streets into a muddy mess and prevent, in some cases, access to the fronts of their homes and garages and block street parking.

'The burr in my saddle is how the swim park issue was handled,' said Benson. 'We're talking about property owners who pay significant taxes putting up with all this construction, stress, noise and confusion for two years. But we can't give up use of the swim park for two months?'

School and city officials say there is little they can do.

With an eye toward preserving trees, swim time for children and minding legal obligations, the Lake Oswego School Board voted on the shared-use plan in July.

Linda Brown, a member of the school board, said the plan was the best the board could offer while side-stepping potential legal problems and addressing the added safety concerns that would come with a shared-use arrangement.

While the plan still would have allowed for three-and-a-half days construction each week, city officials say that schedule would cause delays.

'Those kinds of things all make the project extend out longer than it needs to be extended. And all these things cost the city money,' said Jane Heisler, Lake Oswego's communication manager for the interceptor project.

She said the city of Lake Oswego continues to look for properties to buy on the lake, which would help ease construction traffic on the north ends of the canals.

'The more sites we have, the less impact any one area would have to take,' said Heisler. 'We know this is not going to be an easy project and certainly will impact some residents more than others.'

Heisler said the city plans to do what it can to make construction easy on residents and continues to reach out for ideas as to how.

But Oliphant said he wonders whether swim park users might have responded differently to the construction plans for the park had they known the hardship their neighbors would otherwise face. He is pressing the city to reduce what he perceives an unfair burden.

While he accepts that some construction will occur on his street, he said, 'I don't accept a policy decision that works heavily against us for no logical reason,' he said.

This story has been modified to clarify the location of the pipe fusing area and the duration of time dump trucks will appear on Allen Road and Alder Circle.