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Sewage capacity ills irk county

The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners is at a crossroads.

On the one hand it has to deal with the potential for exploding growth in the east county, while on the other hand county sewer pipes are nearly full and wastewater treatment plants are at capacity.

Commissioner Lynn Peterson said she doesn't want to call a moratorium on growth, but something must be done to alleviate sewer capacity problems.

Some of the county's plans were explained at Monday night's worksession of the West Linn City Council, including the advice of a citizen advisory group that the commissioners appointed.

In the short-term, the county wants to add capacity at the Tri-Cities plant in Oregon City and divert up to five million gallons a day from the Milwaukie area to the Tri-Cities plant, according to Mike Kuenzi, director of Water Environment Services.

WES manages wastewater treatment for Clackamas County Service District No. 1 (CCSD No. 1), which serves Happy Valley, Milwaukie, a portion of Damascus and unincorporated county areas.

'The quickest way to gain capacity (for the Kellogg service area),' Kuenzi said, 'is to build additional capacity at the Tri-Cities plant, and then negotiate a new intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the wastewater districts.'

The Kellogg plant that serves Milwaukie is already at capacity, Peterson said, and its technology will not allow it to meet the changing requirements of the Department of Environmental Quality.

For the long-term, a committee will be looking for a large site to build a new mega plant that would serve nearly the entire county and have capacity for growth.

But West Linn councilors were a bit wary of the county's proposal, since they were left out of the loop the last time the county made plans to meet sewage capacities with the doomed Clearwater Project.

Councilors expressed their concern that West Linn ratepayers would be paying higher rates in order to fund more capacity so that people in Happy Valley or Damascus could build more homes.

Kuenzi said West Linn rates will not be affected by improvements to increase county treatment capacity.

Councilor Scott Burgess expressed concern that other areas in the county want to take control of the Tri-Cities treatment plant that was built and paid for by people living in West Linn, Oregon City and Gladstone.

'We come to the table with our asset that everybody else wants,' he told Kuenzi and Peterson. 'It's not an issue of power; it's a question of what's best for the ratepayers that are paying bonds and what they're going to be paying in the future.'