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Tigard explores water options

The Willamette River may be the city's most viable option, but that may raise a political firestorm

TIGARD - The time has come for the city of Tigard to 'fish or cut bait' when it comes to choosing a permanent water source, according to Mayor Craig Dirksen.

Members of the Intergovernmental Water Board, backed by consultant Mark Knudson of Carollo Engineers, stressed to the City Council at a work session Tuesday that Tigard must make a decision by the end of this year.

Tigard's options include entering into an agreement with the city of Lake Oswego, which draws from the Clackamas River, or the Joint Water Commission, which wants to build a higher dam on Hagg Lake, or using the Willamette River or continuing to purchase water from the city of Portland.

While the Lake Oswego option remains the most cost efficient, its council apparently has decided not to meet with Tigard until late fall or early winter.

Tigard officials learned Tuesday that the Lake Oswego council needs to get up to speed on its own water issues, which are more urgent than Tigard's because Lake Oswego is projected to reach its capacity in two years.

'We're concerned that Lake Oswego is going to take too long to choose an option,' said Dirksen. 'Things need to move along at a relatively good pace. If we don't have a meeting set by mid-year, then we need to let them know that Tigard will have to go ahead without them.'

Likewise, investing in a higher dam with the JWC is among the most expensive options.

And according to Public Works Director Dennis Koellermeier, the Tualatin Valley Water District, which is part of the JWC, has set a completion date of 2015 as a condition of participation.

Patrick Carroll, who represents the city of Durham on the IWB, told the council that the Lake Oswego and JWC options are not viable.

'We're going to be looking at the Willamette or Portland,' he said. 'We must realize the Willamette River may be our only option.'

Years ago, when Tigard was considering going to the Willamette for its water supply, a group called Citizens for Safe Water was formed and successfully fought to allow residents to vote on the issue before the city turned to that option.

While the Willamette has some known pollutants, and deformed fish and frogs have been found in the river, the city of Wilsonville constructed a large water-treatment plant and began using the river water several years ago.

'We are in the same position we were six years ago and are paying tremendous amounts of money to Portland (for its water),' said Councilor Gretchen Buehner. 'We don't have the choice to dawdle any longer. The people in Wilsonville haven't grown a third eye from drinking from the Willamette.'

Carroll noted that money has been spent on consultants to come up with facts and figures on the supply side, and 'maybe it's time to spend money on getting (public) opinion on this.'

Councilor Tom Woodruff suggested that another council meeting be held within the next couple of months to discuss the issue further.

On a more positive note, Tigard has a successful aquifer storage-and-recovery system with two wells on line that have a combined storage capacity of 260 million gallons.

The city purchases extra water for eight months of the year when rates are cheaper and injects it into the underground aquifers. During the other four months of the year, when higher rates are in effect, the city draws out the water for use.

Based on the figures for July 2006, ASR contributed 26.7 percent of the peak season capacity.