Permit sets limits on summer water withdrawals to protect fish

The Army Corps of Engineers has issued a permit to Lake Oswego to build a new water pumping system on the Clackamas River, removing the final obstacle to start construction on a facility that will allow the city to share drinking water with FILE PHOTO - Construction is now underway on Lake Oswego's water intake facility on the Clackamas River in Gladstone, shown here in a 2010 file photo. Over the next couple of years, the old facility will be replaced with a new one capable of serving both Lake Oswego and Tigard.

The water intake facility in Gladstone and associated pipelines in the Willamette River are among a handful of projects planned by the Lake Oswego-Tigard Partnership. The $250 million water infrastructure effort also includes a new reservoir in Lake Oswego, a bigger water treatment plant in West Linn and a pump station in Tigard, as well as additional pipelines. If all goes according to plan, the new system could be up and running by December 2015.

The Corps permit that arrived late last week includes a biological opinion from the National Marine Fisheries Service required under the Endangered Species Act. The agencies concluded the project, just upstream of the Willamette River, will not jeopardize the survival of five threatened fish species such as upper Willamette River spring chinook salmon, lower Columbia River coho and steelhead.

“Our action will not result in a ‘take’ of endangered species or habitat — a take being harm or harassment,” said Joel Komarek, Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership project director. “That was an important finding.”

However, the agency did find that, during certain times in the summer, when stream flows are typically at their lowest and the public’s demand for water is at its highest, Lake Oswego and Tigard’s planned withdrawals from the Clackamas River could result in a slight increase in the remaining water’s temperature, and that could pose problems for fish.

As a result, the Lake Oswego-Tigard Partnership will have to limit the amount of water it takes from the river in late summer.

The actual reduction will vary according to flows recorded on an upstream gauge, but officials believe the limit could by reduced by about 5 million gallons on some days. The restrictions will be in place between Aug. 21 and Sept. 30 each year.

Outside of that period, the facility could draw up to 38 million gallons each day to provide water to both Lake Oswego and Tigard.

Komarek said the cities have a variety of options for managing how much water they tap when limits are imposed.

“One is using water Tigard stores in its aquifer storage and recovery system,” he said. That system can store 400 million gallons of water, he said. In addition, the partnership can store at least 50 million gallons in the cities’ above-ground reservoirs, and both cities have curtailment plans in place to encourage conservation.

Other conservation and protection measures outlined in the permit call for taking extra precautions during construction, which includes building a cofferdam this summer so work can continue on the facility over the winter and in subsequent years.

Throughout the process, officials will make sure to monitor turbidity in the water and fish salvage efforts, Komarek said. Crews will also be responsible for reporting details about activities that could harm fish — for example, counting the number of blows from an impact hammer and reporting that figure to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

And any of the in-water work at the site is limited to specific time periods to protect species making their way through the river. Typically that period spans July 15 to Aug. 31.

Because the city received its permit more than seven months later than expected, crews are now making up for lost time. The city has obtained an extension to conduct in-water work through Sept. 30. It’s unclear whether another extension will be sought.

“We’re going to get construction started,” Komarek said. “Hopefully things go very well and we don’t run into any surprises that might cause a slowdown in the schedule.”

He wasn’t sure whether the delayed start to construction could lead to overtime work for the crews, which might bump up the project costs.

Last week, the Lake Oswego City Council approved selling $101 million in bonds to finance the water partnership projects, which together form its largest infrastructure investment ever. Lake Oswego and Tigard have increased residents’ water rates to pay back the bonds.

Meanwhile, Lake Oswego is defending its water rights in the Oregon Court of Appeals. The case is likely to be heard late this year, officials said.

Energy Trust incentive means savings for water partnership

The Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership has reached an agreement with Energy Trust of Oregon.

The Energy Trust of Oregon has agreed to an incentive offer to Lake Oswego to use more efficient pumps and pump drives at its water treatment plant in West Linn. The $292,000 offer represents 50 percent of the value of the cost to install those more efficient pumps and drives, according to the partnership.

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