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LOT helps solve city's water problems

For two years, the city council has made a priority of developing a safe, reliable water system at a reasonable cost. The city has now agreed to work with neighboring communities to resolve by: SUBMITTED - John Kovashseveral of our most pressing water infrastructure problems at a savings in excess of $20 million dollars for West Linn residents.

Several years ago, Lake Oswego and Tigard (LOT) developed a $250 million plan to address their water infrastructure problems. Collaboration with LOT will bring significant tangible benefits to the citizens of West Linn. Let me explain.

Our backup/emergency water supply is a 4 million gallon per day intertie with LOT and this intertie is the most cost-effective solution for meeting the city’s emergency water needs. Without this intertie, West Linn would have to double the size of its reservoir to 8 million gallons and construct a water main under the Willamette. The LOT intertie thus will save West Linn ratepayers around $20 million. Our water bills would have to almost double to raise that much money.

In addition to those savings, LOT will pay $5 million to West Linn for the use of right of way, and this payment will mean that water system improvements such as rebuilding our 99-year-old Bolton Reservoir can move forward.

LOT will continue to give us a stable and reliable source of backup water that our city needs because West Linn water comes from a single point on the Clackamas River through a single pipe that crosses the Willamette River on the Abernethy Bridge. This situation has forced us, on numerous occasions, to rely on Lake Owego for our drinking water due to breaks and emergency situations on the Clackamas River.

Our new agreement provides us with connectivity to more than 53 million gallons of reservoir storage, access to a second intake on the Clackamas River and connectivity to Washington County and Portland water supply systems.

In addition, the West Linn water system will be connected to a seismically hardened water treatment plant and transmission lines built to withstand a 9.0 earthquake.

All infrastructure improvements have construction impacts and LOT will reconstruct a plant that has existed at the same location in West Linn for more than 40 years. Although we recognize the burden this places on that neighborhood, the alternative would be for West Linn to construct similar transmission lines and an 8 million gallon reservoir in other West Linn neighborhoods.

All 25,000 West Linn residents need high-quality, safe and efficient municipal services at the lowest possible cost. The hard reality is that our existing water infrastructure system and the financing mechanism that supports it are failing. We are facing problems in four areas: storage needs (reservoirs), emergency water supply (intertie), pumping and transmitting this water (pump stations and pipes in the ground) and seismic vulnerability (facilities must be upgraded “hardened” to latest standards).

The steps that we are taking solve significant water issues facing our citizens, and they substantially decrease the cost of addressing these problems.

Upgrading infrastructure is difficult, but continuing to delay or ignore the issue would be crippling to this city and would put our citizens at risk. Instead, we have taken advantage of a fortuitous opportunity that provides overwhelming benefits to our residents.

John Kovash is the mayor of West Linn.




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