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Time to plan for future water needs is now


The city of Forest Grove is proposing to raise its water rates by 8 percent effective this upcoming July. This increase continues to implement the results of a rate study conducted in 2011, which concluded the water utility needs such increases to keep up with maintenance and capital infrastructure needs. The average residential customer will see their water bill increase by approximately $2.31 a month.

The city of Forest Grove is fortunate to have two different water sources. The primary source is our own water from several streams originating from the city watershed and secondly, we have a significant water supply behind Scoggins Dam in Hagg Lake. The city has enough water supply to accommodate future growth in the community projected to occur over the next 50 years.

The city shares Hagg Lake water with our neighbors in Beaverton and Hillsboro. The Scoggins Dam is owned by the federal government and managed by the Bureau of Reclamation. Based on recent seismic studies, there is a high level of probability that it could be severely damaged by a large earthquake. Therefore, Scoggins Dam will have to undergo an expensive seismic retrofit in the next decade, and Forest Grove will have to participate in this repair. The current estimate for Forest Grove’s share is around $4 million. In addition, a number of other improvements have been identified that are necessary to help maintain our water-supply infrastructure. In order to keep up with these capital costs, rates have been planned to increase over time to avoid major rate spikes when the capital investments occur.

Even with the increase, Forest Grove water rates continue to be among the lowest in the region and the state of

Oregon. The city also uses revenues from timber harvest receipts from our 4,500-acre watershed to help offset rates and also help pay for expensive infrastructure improvements.

If we can put funds away now (which the 8 percent increase allows), we can raise this revenue over time, rather than in one lump sum.

Past leaders of the city of Forest Grove had the vision to look into the future and make critical investments that have assured present residents of some of the best drinking water in the world — at a very reasonable rate. It is our intention to try and maintain the excellent quality of our water and to assure that we can meet future demand as well.

Michael Sykes is the city manager of Forest Grove.