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Joint water plant expansion on hold


Plant and pipeline applications will be combined project.

by: FILE PHOTO - Lake Oswego's water treatment plant will see major renovations as part of the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership, which plans to build a joint water system for the two cities by 2016. The Partnership submitted a letter to the West Linn Planning Commission asking to suspend hearings on the matter.Tigard and Lake Oswego’s plans for expanding a water treatment plant in West Linn is treading water, at least for the time being.

The Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership submitted a letter to the West Linn Planning Commission during its May 16 meeting, asking to suspend hearings on the matter.

The $240 million to $249 million water partnership hopes to build a joint water system for the two cities by 2016, but has faced opposition from neighbors in West Linn for years, who say they don’t want the new treatment plant built in their neighborhood.

Lake Oswego has operated a treatment plant in the West Linn neighborhood since 1968, but neighbors near the plant have continually expressed concern about its proposed expansion.

West Linn’s Planning Commission heard eight hours of testimony from residents in the area during several meetings. Residents cited concerns about years of disruption, noise, light, construction traffic, risk of flooding and burst pipes and plummeting property values.

In its May 16 letter, water partnership officials said the main reason behind the suspension was so the partnership could combine the water treatment plant expansion application with a related pipeline application, which should be submitted to the city of West Linn in mid-June.

“We have heard considerable comment from both commissioners and the public about the subsequent water line application, which is not yet filed,” said Ed Sullivan, an attorney who represents the partnership.

During its meeting, the West Linn Planning Commission moved to suspend the hearings on the water treatment plant application to a future unset date.

This was the fourth in a series of hearings on the subject.

The proposed water plant expansion has been in the works since 2008, when Tigard and Lake Oswego joined together to form the partnership.

The plant expansion would increase the property’s size from 6 acres to 9.2 acres, building a new administration building, underground water reservoir and selling and treatment facilities.

The expansion incorporates four residential lots in the neighborhood currently owned by Lake Oswego.

Lake Oswego and Tigard are currently in a condemnation process with neighbors to remove existing covenants, conditions and restrictions in the neighborhood that prohibit anything but residential use of the properties.

The project also involves the installation of a 4-foot-wide pipeline from the Clackamas River to the treatment plant.

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 in fall 2015, with a total construction period of two and a half years.

Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership officials initially wanted to separate the plant and pipeline applications to expedite the process and start construction on the plant expansion, said water partnership director Joel Komarek. But after hearing from the Planning Commission and the community, the partnership will ask the commission to hear the two applications together.

“It will allow you to deal with the entire project,” Sullivan said.

Suspending the hearing will also allow Tigard and Lake Oswego officials to meet with West Linn neighbors again and work on further mitigation, Sullivan said.

“We are aware there are further folks who will not abide by our application under any circumstance; on the other hand, we want to be able to talk with those that are willing to talk with us and see if there are further opportunities for mitigation,” Sullivan said.

After the pipeline application is received next month, it will go through city review and then on to public hearings this fall.

“We believe the residents of West Linn deserve a thorough and thoughtful response to their concerns,” wrote Lake Oswego Mayor Jack Hoffman and Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen in the May 16 letter to the commission. “Delay allows us to return to the Planning Commission later this year with new and clearer information about the benefits of our proposed project for the citizens of West Linn.”

West Linn Planning Commissioner Robert Miller complimented the water partnership for listening to residents’ concerns.

“I also want to acknowledge all the people who testified,” Miller said. “I hope you see that this is the process working, that because you did express yourself, the applicant did hear it and did respond. I hope everyone on both sides continues in that spirit, and we’ll come to a conclusion that satisfies everyone.”


Related story: Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen and Lake OSwego Mayor Jack Hoffman write to The Times and speak out about why they asked for a pause..