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Lake Oswego-Tigard water treatment is a win-win

Terry JordanJust after announcing my candidacy, City Manager David Donaldson invited the candidates for mayor and city council to tour key city facilities. One of these sites was our current water treatment facility in West Linn.

This facility was constructed in 1968 in what was then unincorporated Clackamas County. It had an initial treatment capacity of 10 million gallons per day. In 1980 it was expanded to its present capacity of 16 MGD, which the city uses now on very hot summer days.

Steady increases in population and an aging facility prompted the need to look into upgrading the system and increase its reliability and capacity to provide clean drinking water. Kari Duncan, plant manager, said, “We have reached the edge of our capacity and the reliability of our system.” Engineering studies indicate that the system must be replaced not upgraded.

Lake Oswego owns the water rights to 38 MGD from the Clackamas River. Partnering with Tigard allows us to claim that water and retain our rights, ensuring that we will have enough water to meet our projected needs past 2040. It is far more cost-effective to have Tigard share the costs than for us to build a new system on our own. We currently provide emergency backup to West Linn and that will continue as part of the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership.

Claims have been made by a few fellow candidates and concerned citizens that a new water treatment facility is unnecessary and that we are somehow getting a bad deal because we will no longer be the sole owner of our water treatment facility. It has been suggested that we renegotiate or even cancel the agreement.

The need for the project is clearly stated in the engineering studies. This system has reached the end of its useful life, is seismically unsafe and has pumps that are so old if one were to break it would reduce our capacity to 12 MGD. “If a pump goes down, there are no replacement parts,” said Duncan, “They need to be custom built.”

On our tour we saw the river intake screens that need to be manually cleaned by divers to scrape off the algae. The new facility will change to use brush-cleaned rotating screens and have the ability to be brought to the surface.

In 2008, the cities of Lake Oswego and Tigard formally endorsed a partnership agreement, and the project is under way. Tigard and Lake Oswego currently have joint ownership. This contract specifies that Tigard pays 52.9 percent of the cost to our 47.1 percent, and receives 14 MGD to our 24 MGD. We have retained ownership of the water rights, which is an important distinction. Breaking our contract could cost us millions of dollars in penalties and legal fees and damage our relationships with our neighbors, and we will still need a new water treatment facility.

We are so fortunate to be undertaking this project at a time when interest rates are low, materials and labor costs are low and we have a neighbor who will share the costs. Now is the time to ensure that we all have clean water when we need it, for the lowest possible price. With this partnership, we are ensuring safe drinking water for generations to come.

Terry Jordan, Lake Oswego, is a candidate for Lake Oswego City Council.




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