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Our Opinion: Tabor neighbors strike good deal on reservoirs

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A delicate compromise reached in recent weeks will preserve at least one important function of three old reservoirs at Mount Tabor Park: They will continue to provide aesthetic value to the park and surrounding neighborhood.

A plan that received preliminary approval from the Portland City Council last week should settle an issue that’s bedeviled the Water Bureau for two decades. Under the plan, which must receive a final vote in August for a land-use permit, the three reservoirs will be disconnected from the city’s water supply, but the structures will be restored and they will remain filled with water — just not for drinking.

The Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association deserves great credit for hammering out the deal with representatives of the Water Bureau. The neighbors gained some concessions, including a pledge that the reservoirs would be disconnected in a way that can be reversed in the future. However, the plan allows the city to move ahead with its commitment to comply this year with federal regulations requiring that the reservoirs be taken offline.

We understand not everyone is completely happy with this outcome. Also, there will be a cost to either taxpayers or ratepayers of $4 million plus to restore and maintain the historic reservoirs. (The cost of disconnecting the reservoirs is even higher, but that’s not one the city could avoid.)

However, these structures are in fact both an asset and a liability for the city and its water bureau. The city has an obligation to consider how its actions will affect the neighborhood — and this compromise strikes an appropriate balance between environmental compliance, neighborhood sensitivity and fiscal responsibility.