Without it, West Linn might struggle to rebuild main reservoir

The Lake Oswego City Council has approved an updated emergency water agreement with West Linn that aims to highlight benefits to both cities.

At a meeting earlier this month, Lake Oswego City Councilor Bill Tierney called the new deal “an example of mutually beneficial regional action.”

“If Lake Oswego or West Linn needs emergency water, they’ll get it,” he said.

The update was necessary in part to add Tigard as a partner. Lake Oswego and West Linn’s existing pact, which also names the South Fork Water Board, dates to 1984. It was most recently updated in 2003. But in 2008, Lake Oswego and Tigard paired up to share drinking water resources, allowing the cities to split the costs of upgrading Lake Oswego’s infrastructure while addressing Tigard’s long-term water needs.

Also underlying the revamped deal are ongoing obstacles to Lake Oswego’s efforts to expand its water treatment plant, which is located in West Linn’s Robinwood neighborhood and provides the city with its backup water supply.

Lake Oswego has operated the plant, between Kenthorpe Way and Mapleton Drive, since 1968. It now hopes to expand the facility onto some adjacent lots so it can double the amount of water it treats, to as much as 38 million gallons each day, and store 2 million gallons underground. Lake Oswego also plans to install a new 4-foot-wide pipeline to the facility.

West Linn residents have raised concerns about the plant’s potential impact on property values and problems such as unwanted noise, light and construction traffic. They have also questioned whether the project provides any community benefit, a determining factor in West Linn’s permitting process.

But officials are now confident they’ve shown that West Linn will benefit from Lake Oswego’s proposed expansion.

At a Sept. 4 study session, council members and Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership employees suggested that West Linn will never be able to update the hub of its drinking water supply, the nearly 100-year-old Bolton reservoir, without relying on the backup connection to Lake Oswego.

Project Director Joel Komarek said West Linn officials have been pondering how they might finance their own needed water system improvements.

“To construct a replacement for that reservoir they will have to have this in place,” he said of the water system intertie.

Mayor Jack Hoffman said specific paragraphs in the new agreement outline how Lake Oswego’s expanded facilities will benefit West Linn.

“I think it’s the right thing to do in terms of moving forward in keeping our promise to the planning commission,” he said.

The agreement says the system will allow West Linn to retain its redundant water supply facilities and a reliable source of emergency water through at least 2041; provide a less expensive source for emergency water than West Linn’s other options; and allow West Linn ratepayers to avoid $11.6 million in water system capital construction needs during the next 20 years.

With the intertie in place, West Linn can offset some of the water storage called for in its master plan. Lake Oswego’s expanded facilities will provide West Linn with enough emergency water to meet its average daily demand of 4 million gallons, at least until 2041.

The Lake Oswego City Council voted to adopt the updated agreement on Tuesday. The South Fork Water Board and cities of Tigard and West Linn will also need to approve the document.

During land-use hearings for the proposed water plant expansion, West Linn planning commissioners questioned how the agreement related to the city’s comprehensive plan and water master plan, as well as approval criteria laid out in the development code.

As a result, the water partnership asked for the process to be put on hold so it could update the agreement while re-engaging neighbors in discussions about potential impacts and preparing its application for the new water pipeline. The proceedings are expected to resume in October.

The $250 million water project involves six components in multiple cities, including a new intake facility on the Clackamas River in Gladstone, a reservoir in Lake Oswego and a pump station in Tigard. Construction could begin in 2013.

Meanwhile, Lake Oswego is defending its water rights in the Oregon Court of Appeals. That case is likely to conclude in about a year, officials said.

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