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Council gives interceptor go-ahead

In a unanimous decision that one Lake Oswego City Council member said was easy to make, the council on Tuesday voted to go ahead with building an in-lake sewer interceptor line because of its superior design.

The council selected the in-lake buoyant system to replace the current in-lake pile-supported line that was built in Oswego Lake in 1963 and poses a risk in an earthquake.

The $100 million system, required by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, will be the largest capital project ever undertaken by the city and it must be finished by 2011.

The in-lake buoyant line would be tethered to the lake floor and held afloat by a second line directly above it. The other option would be to run the line around the lake, on the north side. That option would use pump stations, whereas the in-lake line would rely on gravity.

'I feel quite comfortable with this decision,' said council member Ellie McPeak. 'This is an easy decision.'

'The buoyant option seems to be the best option,' said council member Roger Hennagin.

Council members and city staff said they had confidence that Makai Ocean Engineering has the experience to design the line because the company has worked on underwater lines in more hostile oceanic conditions.

Makai is a sub-consultant to the principal design consultant Brown and Caldwell.

William 'Skip' O'Neill, president of the Lake Oswego Corporation, said he is in favor of the in-lake buoyant option.

'We want this council to be as active as possible to implement this,' O'Neill said. The new line would allow the city to take hundreds of homes off septic systems, he said.

Several who spoke at Tuesday's public hearing on the interceptor line complained that the lake draw-down will be an inconvenience to lake users.

Whether the city selected the in-lake or around-the-lake option, city engineer Joel Komarek said there must be a lake draw-down.

Elizabeth Buchanan said she wanted to know if the city will compensate owners of lakeside properties for 'the loss of beneficial uses of the lake.'

'This is an unfair burden to property owners,' she said, referring to those who live along the lake.

Others wanted the city to do an analysis of the effects on tourism that a draw-down in the summer would have on the city.

'The lake is the primary asset of the community and the primary economic engine,' said Gary DeStefano.

Jim McSherry said he hopes 'there is sensitivity to what this will do to wildlife on the lake,' such as blue herons, eagles and turtles. 'If we destroy part of it, there will be ramifications for many years to come.'

Komarek said the around-the-lake option would be less environmentally friendly because it would require electricity.

As for the lake draw-down, Mayor Judie Hammerstad said it's unavoidable. 'We would prefer no draw-down, but we will go with whatever is required,' Hammerstad said. 'We will work closely with Lake Corp.'

Construction would begin in 2009. The council must still decide whether to pay for the project with revenue bonds or general obligation bonds.