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Sealing the leaks

Initial planning for Bolton Reservoir replacement moves forward


by: TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - West Linn's aging water system has been a point of concern for years, and the city council aims to have a long-term plan to address the problem by the end of 2013. The ongoing effort to rejuvenate the city’s aging water system took another step forward Monday, when the West Linn City Council instructed city staff to begin preliminary design work on a new Bolton Reservoir.

Formulating a long-term strategy to address the city’s water infrastructure and storage problems — which include routine water main breaks and insufficient storage — was listed among the city council’s 2013 priorities. A $5 million payment from the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership (LOT) is expected to be used on the Bolton Reservoir replacement project, which in total will cost about $9 million.

A 2013 ballot measure to replace the Bolton Reservoir was pulled when LOT agreed on the $5 million payment.

In a letter dated Oct. 16 to West Linn Mayor John Kovash and the city council, Utility Advisory Board Chairman Ray Kindley expressed concerns about the council’s progress in addressing the water issue.

“Given the urgent need to maintain and repair the city’s water system, the UAB is very concerned that the city does not appear to have any plan to adjust its water rates or to find other means to fund the necessary work to keep our water system safe,” Kindley wrote.

In response, Public Works Director Lance Calvert and Thomas Boland, senior engineer at Murray, Smith & Associates, presented a progress report during the city council’s Monday work session.

“We really haven’t done a whole lot of work in pursuing a lot of detail on the Bolton Reservoir because of the LOT measure,” Calvert said. “Was it going forward? Was it not going forward? How was the process going to move? Now that we’ve got some good forward motion, we can start to solidify what we want to accomplish and start to consider moving forward with engineering potential improvements the reservoir.”

Preliminary studies showed that replacing the Bolton Reservoir was really the city’s only viable option; constructing a new reservoir in a different location would be nearly impossible given the city’s layout.

“Bolton really is the preferred site for the city’s large storage,” Boland said, “because it makes up the hub of the city’s system, and the city’s system has been built around it. There’s lots of infrastructure in place.”

The preferred new reservoir would be a 4-million-gallon circular tank and “mostly buried,” said Boland.

Preliminary geotechnical analysis showed that the north end of the Bolton site was affected by landslides in the 1970s and again in the late 1990s. The tank could be moved farther south on the site to mitigate risks, Boland said.

The analysis also found evidence of an ancient, prehistoric landslide but characterized it as a low-probability risk.

“We did land reconnaissance,” Boland said. “And we did not notice evidence of movement that was obvious since the development of West Linn.”

Moving forward, Boland said, design and further geotechnical analysis work could be done within a 12- to 15-month period, with the land use permitting process running concurrent to design. Construction with ground improvements and demolition would take about 18 months.

“Construction starting in April of 2015 could be done by October of 2016,” Boland said. “And we would structure the schedule so that Bolton storage — both existing and new storage — is only out of service for one summer season.”

City Manager Chris Jordan said, in addition to the $5 million in funding from LOT, the city could also receive about 30 percent of its funding from system development charges.

“That gets us to $7 million,” Jordan said. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t do all of the predesign, the geotechnical work, the design and the land use permitting in the next 15 months and identify where the rest of that $2 million will come from.”

The council agreed unanimously to that proposal, and Jordan said the next step would be for Calvert and Chief Financial Officer Richard Seals to meet with the West Linn Utility Advisory Board and discuss funding for both water pipe replacement, which is estimated at about $10 million, and the remainder of the reservoir funding.

Patrick Malee can be reached at pmalee@westlinntidings.com and 503-636-1281, ext. 106. Follow him on Twitter, @pmalee_wl

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