I am a 27-year resident of West Linn, a licensed professional engineer, the current national president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the chief executive officer of Oregon’s second largest water utility and a former member of the West Linn Utility Advisory Board, and I was greatly disappointed in the recent planning commission decision regarding the expansion of the Lake Oswego water treatment plant and the finding that it would not provide a community benefit to West Linn residents.

West Linn’s water system is in trouble and its reliability in question. With the 24-inch pipeline across the I-205 bridge as our only water supply connection we are at risk of having no water. A recent engineering study points out that our 100-year-old Bolton Reservoir sits atop an ancient landslide and several faults. The study also calls attention to evidence of recent slope movement and so this key asset, that holds almost 50 percent of our total water storage, will not likely survive even a moderate earthquake. Our 2008 water master plan called attention to the seismic vulnerability of these key assets and provided three options to increase our reliability, the least expensive of which is to partner with our neighbors Lake Oswego and Tigard in the expansion of their water treatment plant, saving $11.6 million in needed capital spending.

In 2008, the city council at that time, directed our staff to pursue this lowest cost option. Without this option West Linn residents would need a 30 percent rate increase (based on the city’s chief financial officer’s analysis) to provide the reliability and improvements our system needs, as opposed to the 18 percent increase we will be asked to vote on next year. If either of our key supply assets is out of service, where will we get water for fire protection, sanitation and drinking water?

Yes, with construction of vital public infrastructure comes inconvenience and temporary disruption of our daily lives, so I can understand why neighbors of the treatment facility and proposed new pipelines are concerned. But, in my opinion, a project that corrects our supply reliability problem at the lowest cost for our community outweighs the temporary inconvenience.

West Linn is not an island but is part of the Portland metro region and we will need regional partnerships if we are to afford the necessary infrastructure we need to maintain our quality of life. The Lake Oswego-Tigard project, if approved, will result in a water supply more resilient to earthquakes, floods, source contamination events and potential terrorist attack than exists for any other supply today. This is a great deal for our community and the region. I support the Lake Oswego-Tigard project and hope that as the appeal of this decision comes before the city council they will overturn the planning commission’s decision recognizing that this project provides a communitywide benefit and is necessary to the long-term health and safety of all West Linn residents.

Greg DiLoreto, professional engineer and Diplomate, Water Resources Engineer, is a West Linn resident.

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