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A common sense LOT might be worth considering


The citizen comment in last week’s Review requesting “a forensic-style audit” is a reminder of all of the changes in scope and cost of the Lake Oswego-Tigard (LOT) water project agreement since it was first approved by the joint councils.

Unfortunately, such a third-party audit before continuing release of additional funds is only designed to stop the needed project and not to understand and implement what exactly is needed. Now that we have the correct cost information we should make a new, informed decision and one that fits our family pocketbooks.

I have to say that politics baffles me. From a common sense point of view it seems so clear that we need to build a water treatment plant in Lake Oswego, extract water from the Willamette, build new reservoirs and sell water from either or both plants, as agreed but taking into account practical realities now apparent, to Tigard at a profit that takes into account the cost of pumping, treatment and storage.

The reason we need a new water treatment plant, regardless of the agreement or of our demonstrated ability to conserve, is that the current water supply pipes are old and will eventually crack and fail when over-stressed by pumping more than about 12 million gallons a day. We need to build the new treatment plant within the present boundaries of Lake Oswego because this is where it belongs, because of the significant energy cost of pumping and because of the installation cost of the large pipeline from West Linn.

The existing extraction pumps on the lower Clackamas pool at the Willamette and the pipe in the Willamette River are all at an age where maintenance is increasingly costly and difficult but still possible, provided we have a backup that can be used during repair and for additional capacity.

Before the Tigard agreement the plan was to have a “redundant” water source. LOT does not actually provide one. The cost of this new plant and extraction facility in Lake Oswego would be more in line with the cost originally projected that was supported by the public of both cities. That means the water cost to families for landscape maintenance, gardening and household use would be much more affordable.

Reducing water and sewer rates back to near previous levels and avoiding the temporary and tiny “feel-good” cutting of tax revenues and of a budget-busting “rebate,” might instead finally allow funding street maintenance, including neighborhood streets (currently not funded), to bring them back up to the standard to prevent the cost of repair increasing disproportionately. Possibly it would allow starting to fix the storm water incursion into our wastewater stream during downpours that periodically drives up costs and threatens capacity at the waste treatment plant. It could also free up money for investment in critical and crumbling infrastructure in Foothills to allow much-needed funding via excise tax to our schools from developers while building a stronger tax base. And, as important, it might even be able to allow fully funding the unique and well-used amenities and programs that make Lake Oswego a jewel of a community and attractive to families.

Let your voice be heard if you want to put Lake Oswego community values as paramount without outside interests guiding our destiny. Stand up against “austerity” and “fear-mongering.”

Craig Stephens is a Lake Oswego resident.

(Editor’s note: Lake Oswego does not hold enough rights for Willamette River water to make this portion of Mr. Stephens’ idea feasible).