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Water issues erupt

Residents showed up in droves at West Linn City Hall Monday and Tuesday for the third round of Lake Oswego-Tigard water treatment plant expansion and pipeline public hearings.

The West Linn City Council conducted two nights of public hearings to collect community comment on the controversial projects. Though residents are still just as impassioned as they were before, little new information was brought forth during the two days of testimony.

Back on Nov. 1, the West Linn Planning Commission unanimously voted to deny the two conditional use permits, mainly due to lack of community benefit to West Linn. The Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership appealed the decision last month to the city council.

The commission first started hearing the water treatment plant application in May 2012, but it was put on hold so the pipeline application process could catch up and the two projects could be considered at the same time. The applications came to the commission again last fall.by: LORI HALL - Signs opposing the proposed Lake Oswego-Tigard water treatment plant expansion cropped up all over the city.

Lake Oswego has operated a water treatment plant at 4260 Kenthorpe Way in West Linn’s Robinwood neighborhood since 1968. Residents fought the plant application back in 1967 as well. In cooperation with the city of Tigard, Lake Oswego wants to expand the plant and run a new pipeline to address the future water needs of both cities.

According to LOT Project Director Joel Komarek, the current water plant and pipelines are seismically unsafe and at risk of failure.

“Your water treatment plant and transmission lines, like ours, were built decades ago before seismic standards existed in building codes,” he said. “Our water intake is deteriorating and cannot be repaired.”

The plant, which will hold up to 2 million stored gallons of water underground and handle up to 38 million gallons each day, also serves as an emergency backup water supply for West Linn.

One change to the plant design since the planning commission hearings is the administration and the operations buildings were combined into one facility, reducing construction time by four months (from 32 to 28 months). Other smaller changes include a smaller parking lot, increased greenspace and a decrease in the number of pilings used to add stability to the ground. The new plant will have a 9 percent larger footprint than the current facility.by: LORI HALL - There was standing room only during the West Linn City Council meeting Jan. 14. There were also overflow rooms in both the upstairs and downstairs lobbies at city hall.

After construction, LOT officials predict a net decrease in traffic in the neighborhood, reduced noise from the plant and improved public safety.

Along with a new plant, the project involves the installation of a 4-foot-diameter pipeline from the Clackamas River through West Linn and into Lake Oswego. LOT will also replace a section of West Linn’s water line on Mapleton around the same time, which West Linn will pay half of. The pipeline, which will be broken into four phases, will extend 1.9 miles in West Linn, crossing though both residential and commercial areas.

If approved, the phased expansion of the plant is expected to begin in spring 2013, and the entire project, including the pipeline, will be complete by early 2016.

Prior to public testimony, LOT officials told the council that much of the testimony the planning commission heard was not factual or supported by expert analysis. Jon Holland, lead of LOT’s program management team, ran down a laundry list of what opponents have said about the projects and what LOT deems as the truth, including the intertie, the need for West Linn to be independent, traffic gridlock, the size and scope of the project not fitting the neighborhood and that the ground is unstable for construction.

“Over the next few evenings you will hear strongly worded testimony from project opponents, some well-reasoned, some opinion and conjecture unrelated to evidence or professional evaluation. A good deal of it may well not be relevant to your decision criteria,” LOT representative Ed Sullivan warned the council. “Much of the opposition may be reduced to one notion — the plant should never have been approved 45 years ago — we didn’t want it then and, despite its being a good neighbor, we don’t want it now.”

West Linn residents have continually expressed concern about the plant expansion and pipeline installation. Residents testifying against the expansion cited concerns about years of disruption, reduced property values, noise, light, construction traffic, risk of flooding and burst pipes, chemicals and the appropriateness of the site.

Residents and business owners alike are concerned about traffic disruption not only on the affected residential streets, but also along Highway 43.

More than 60 people signed up to testify — the vast majority was against the project.

Neighbors and residents testifying expressed concern with the construction process, emergency vehicle access, the number of construction vehicles on their streets, loss of water, safe pedestrian passage and the blocking of their driveways.

Mapleton residents are concerned about the noise, safety and access to their homes while the pipeline is being installed. Construction along Mapleton is estimated at three months for the pipeline and another six weeks to replace a city water line.

Residents will be inconvenienced during construction with detours, construction noise and traffic, driveway blockages and the temporary turnoff of water. Elderly residents talked about the fear of emergency vehicles having restricted access to their homes as well as not being able to sell their homes in the near future.

Because most driveways along Mapleton are between 10 and 30 feet wide, residents will be blocked from parking at their homes for about one day, with parking available on the right of way on either side of the road. As part of the project, LOT is replacing a stretch of West Linn water line. When the switchover is made from the old line to the new line, residents could be without water for one work shift.

LOT will keep pedestrian and emergency vehicle access open during all phases of construction along Mapleton, though vehicles will have to detour through Nixon Avenue and Cedaroak Drive.

Construction along Highway 43 will take place at night from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., per Oregon Department of Transportation rules, and will last about five months. During this time, LOT promises not to block off any business from vehicular traffic.

Proponents of the projects said West Linn will benefit for years from the extended emergency water agreement, which will run through 2041, as well as have a safer, more reliable facility. Some called the inconvenience of construction as small trade-off for the benefits.

However, residents have rallied against the projects, creating websites (westlinnfirst.com), sending out fliers, posting signs, creating a registered LLC (STOP) against the projects and getting more than 1,000 signatures on a petition against the projects.

Tigard resident Kathy Veenhuizen said, “Tigard water customers were just hit by a 14 percent rate increase just a month ago to pay for this unneeded, unwanted, expensive project. ... That is a whopping 44 percent increase in just two years.”

Many residents said the planning commission got the decision right and told the council to uphold its decision.

One of the few West Linn residents supporting the project to testify, utility advisory board member Michael Monical said, “They have nowhere else to go but there, into our neighborhood. Sacrificing their small neighborhood is a small price for progress. ... This will provide a financial windfall for decades. ... In 30 or 40 years this will be forgotten.”

In LOT’s rebuttal, Sullivan told the council the residents’ passion and commitment is misdirected and the planning commission “got it wrong.” He also listed improvements to Mary S. Young State Park, continued backup water supply, seismic armoring of the facility, street improvements and the removal of asbestos pipes as benefits.

“We are at a crossroads tonight,” Komarek told the council Monday. “Our water system is in trouble. Your system is in trouble. These facts cannot be disputed, nor can the need for our proposed projects to every resident and business in West Linn.”

City Councilor Thomas Frank, who joined the council Jan. 7, recused himself from the hearing as he was previously a planning commissioner who heard and voted on the permits last year and said it would be difficult for him to remain impartial.

Mayor John Kovash said, “The testimony, I thought, was good. I think the neighborhood did an excellent job of bringing forth a lot of points. Our job is to digest all of this.”

The record will remain open for written testimony until 10 a.m. Jan. 22. Then LOT will have until noon Jan. 25 to rebut any written information. The city council will reconvene Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. for staff questions and to deliberate. In its deliberation, the council may consider adding a $5 million one-time payment from LOT to use city right of way for the pipeline as a condition of approval.

No matter the council’s decision, both LOT and residents could appeal the decision to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals.




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