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The real story behind the Oak Lodge Water District

In response to a recent article in the Oregon City News/Clackamas Review on May 1 and information that has been published in May 21 Voters' Pamphlet, I am compelled make a few comments to correct factual inaccuracies.

The water distributed by the Oak Lodge Water District is purchased from the North Clackamas County Water Commission. The NCCWC was formed by an Inter-Governmental Agreement with the Sunrise Water Authority. OLWD owned and operated the treatment facility on the Clackamas River using a sand filter process. SWA needing additional stable water supply and in exchange for rights and intake access on the Clackamas River agreed expand the processing plant using the latest fiber filtration process. This expansion was completely paid for by SWA.

Subsequently the city of Gladstone purchased 2 MGD of Oak Lodge’s share of plant production for $2,000,000. The NCCWC then was comprised of SWA, OLWD and the City of Gladstone. The NCCWC Board has 3 commissioners from Oak Lodge, 3 Commissioners from Sunrise and 1 Commissioner from the City of Gladstone. The $2,000,000 OLWD received was put into reserve and over time was used to subsidize the District’s O & M.

The OLWD actively works with the Clackamas River Basin Council, Clackamas River Water Providers, and the Regional Water Providers Consortium. We maintain a strong relationship with these organizations and share with them efforts to secure future and maintain current water supplies for the region.

OLWD has a secure water supply now and for the future through it’s ownership in the NCCWC and partnership with SWA and the City of Gladstone.

OLWD also has an IGA with the Oak Lodge Sanitary District ( OLSD ) to share equipment and resources. The combining of the OLWD & OLSD has been considered by the current OLWD Board and past boards. The economies that some have suggested just do not exist. The boundaries of the two districts are not coincident. The customer bases are not the same.

In addition, the OLSD now has approximately a $50,000,000 debt and in 2014 OLWD will be debt free. If the districts were to combine the customers of both districts would lose representation since instead of five commissioners on each on two boards there would be only a single board with only five members. Although some may think that there would be a benefit in combining OLWD and OLSD, the issues surrounding providing fresh clean water and processing water waste and affluent are as different as night and day.

The current OLWD Board took action in raising the base service charge to prevent the continuing erosion of the funds received as a result of the sale of the 2 MGD of OLWD water production to the city of Gladstone.

The increase in the Base Service Charge from $5.05/month to $13.70/month was implemented to bring the base charge within a range that would cover the operations and maintenance of the District. Prior to this increase the O & M of the district was being supported by usage rates and funds transferred from contingencies and reserves. Critics of the Base Service Charge increase like to use a figure of 171 percent increase, but the reality of $8.65 increase puts the issue into proper perspective. This equates to six pack and bag of chips. OLWD is among the lowest cost water providers in the region. In addition, I can say with confidence that anyone would be hard pressed to find a water district anywhere that is debt free, has a secure water source as we have through the NCCWC and has a comprehensive infrastructure replacement and upgrade program to match OLWD.

Oak Lodge through the NCCW and the Clackamas River Water Providers (CRWP) maintain a continuous Conservation program. This Conservation program can be reviewed on the OLWD website. We outreach to Schools and the Community at large. As a result of CRWP conservation programs and the infill within the OLWD, the water usage in the District has been steadily declining at a rate of about 5 percent per year.

OLWD is currently upgrading all four of our storage reservoirs. They are engineered to withstand a 9.0 earthquake. We will be providing portable water filtration systems and dispensing water directly from the reservoirs should the pipe distribution system be compromised. We are prepared for emergencies.

The current board along with the general manager has developed a master plan for the distribution system. OLWD has been spending on average of $500,000/year replacing and upgrading pipes in the ground. In order to keep pace with that plan the board will be considering small Base Service Charges on a regular basis. The objective is to rebuild the $2,000,000 reserve fund and to keep upgrading the system. Our major objective is NOT to have to go into debt. Because of our planning we have been able to pay cash for the remodel of the office, purchase new backup power systems, replace pumps and pump houses along with other capital improvements.

The inference the current OLWD Board of Commissioners has not been doing a job of planning and preparing for the future is simply not borne out by the facts.

Myron Martwick is a commissioner for the Oak Lodge Water District.



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