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History Channel coming to film the mountain area

New show to film this month on Bull Run Reservoir

'Cities of the Underworld,' a new television show on the History Channel, gets to the bottom of some of the best-known places in the world: London, Rome, Edinburgh, Berlin, New York - even the Sandy area.

For part of an episode examining the underground history of the Portland area, producers of the show recently revealed that they plan to visit the Bull Run Reservoir, a major source of water for Oregon's largest city, sometime this month. That local connection puts the mountain community on the map with its larger brethren.

'It's been fantastic,' said producer Allison Hynes about filming in such worldly locations. 'You tap into an entire network of experts across the globe. It's such a specialized group that most of the contacts we've talked to in other parts of the world know underground experts elsewhere.'

Hynes and the History Channel didn't have to look too hard to find Michael P. Jones, local history expert and Cascade Geographic Society curator, who planned the tour of underworld locations in and around Portland for the episode.

'People want to see unusual things,' said Jones, a Rhododendron resident who also runs the Portland Underground tours that feature the shanghai tunnels. 'We get people from all over the world to the shanghai tunnels, and then we get them to Mount Hood. It gets people interested in history.'

The Bull Run portion of the episode examines the original water system created in 1894, which drew water from Bull Run Lake. An original water main with a date on it was recently found, causing a stir for some historians.

'That made a lot of pipe geeks very excited,' Jones said.

The system's conduits took two years to construct and required the clearing of more than 26 miles of forest, which was performed by hand. The water system now serves approximately 800,000 people, roughly one-quarter of the state's population. Producers hope to highlight the evolution of the underground systems for the show.

'It will blend the historical perspective and looking forward to the future,' said Hynes. 'We love to go into a city and look at how its history was affected by the use of the underground; waterworks, waste disposal or relics left behind.'

Water officials think people will gain a greater appreciation from the Portland episode for a service that they might take for granted.

'The Portland Water Bureau is extremely proud of the history of the Bull Run watershed and infrastructure,' said Tricia Knoll, public information officer for the water bureau. 'People don't see those pipes; it's a given that customers turn their faucets, and out comes water. There's a huge investment, historical and financial, to make that happen.'

Other underground locations featured in the Portland episode include the shanghai tunnels, the Kelly Butte bomb shelter, the Iron Mountain mine in Lake Oswego and Prohibition-related sites in the area.

'People who really understand promotion say this is big,' Jones said. 'It's multi-million dollars of free publicity. And it's not just a one-time shot, because they rerun this stuff. I feel this is the beginning of a lot of future things. I think a lot more people will come to us.'

No air date has been set for the Portland episode of 'Cities of the Underworld.' The show will premiere at 9 p.m. Monday, April 23, on the History Channel, featuring the city of Edinburgh.

For more information on the show, visit www.history.com. For more information on the Cascade Geographic Society, visit www.cgsmthood.com.