Work on Tualatin-Sherwood Road is sure to be a nuisance. But the payoff will last longer.
And as work continues to build a massive new pipeline system from the Willamette River in Wilsonville up to the communities of Hillsboro, Aloha, Beaverton and Tigard, sections of roadway are being dug up so pipe can be laid in the ground. (On the plus side, that water supply work is providing some of the impetus for the county to finally get to rebuilding Tualatin-Sherwood and Roy Rogers roads through Sherwood.)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is awarding two sizable loans that will be used to help pay for $1.3 billion in Willamette Water Supply System improvements.
One loan for $388 million is being awarded to the Tualatin Valley Water District, and the other for $251 million is going to the city of Hillsboro. The money will go toward construction of intake facilities, over 30 miles of pipeline, a water treatment plant and two storage reservoirs.
The program calls for the expansion of the existing municipal raw water intake facility on the Willamette River in Wilsonville, along with construction of a new water treatment plant in Sherwood. The former will be built between 2020 and 2024, while the latter is scheduled to be built between 2022 and 2025.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Oregon Department of State Lands also have approved the project’s environmental permits, while land use permitting is in progress for various elements.
“The benefits significantly reduce the rate impacts to our customers,” Tualatin Valley Water District CEO Tom Hickmann stated in a press release, “while simultaneously helping provide an additional water supply that results in protecting public health with a reliable drinking water source and fueling the economy with jobs now and in the future.”
The EPA has estimated the two WIFIA loans will save the water district an estimated $138.4 million and the city of Hillsboro an estimated $125.2 million when compared with typical bond financing terms.
Southeast Cornelius Pass Road in Hillsboro is set to be widened in the early to mid-2020s.
While the construction project won’t break ground for about three more years, the Washington County Department of Land Use & Transportation is getting a head start on its public outreach. It has scheduled an open house for the widening project on Tuesday, Sept. 10.
Members of the public are invited to drop by to ask questions of the project team and provide input from 5 to 7 p.m. Sept. 10 at R.A. Brown Middle School, located at 1505 S.E. Cornelius Pass Road.
Construction is expected to take place from 2022 to 2024. Concurrently, a 48-inch pipeline for drinking water will be laid down beneath the roadway as part of the Willamette Water Supply Program, which is building a network of water pipelines and other infrastructure to channel drinking water from the Willamette to water customers in Hillsboro and the Tualatin Valley Water District, which covers most of Aloha and Beaverton and part of Tigard.
The Environmental Protection Agency has approved two new loans, totaling $640 million, for a major water-supply infrastructure program in western Oregon.
The loan approvals, announced on Aug. 19, are part of EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or WIFIA, program and will help finance the $1.3-billion, multi-year Willamette Water Supply System program.
A $388-million loan is going to the Tualatin Valley Water District and a $251-million loan to the city of Hillsboro, Ore., which have teamed up on the project. Andrea Watson, spokesperson for the water district, said its loan closed on Aug. 2 and the Hillsboro loan closed on Aug. 16.
EPA’s action represents the first time that it has approved more than one WIFIA loan for a project.
The city of Beaverton, Ore., on July 1 joined the water district and Hillsboro as another partner in the project but it isn’t involved in the loans.
Longtime city employee Niki Iverson will take over JWC as well as Hillsboro Water Department.
HillsboroTribune Geoff Pursinger Tuesday, July 16, 2019
The city of Hillsboro has hired a new head to the regional joint water agency responsible for providing water to a large swath of Washington County.
Niki Iverson has been named the city’s new water department director, and will take over as general manager of the Joint Water Commission.
The Joint Water Commission provides water to more than 375,000 people in Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Beaverton and the Tualatin Valley Water District, which serves parts of Hillsboro and Beaverton. The JWC operates the largest water treatment plant in Oregon.
Iverson is no stranger to Hillsboro. As the city’s water resources manager for the past 12 years, Iverson was oversaw water quality monitoring, reporting, watershed management and water rights.
Iverson replaces longtime water director Kevin Hanway, who retired last month after 14 years as the head of the JWC.
“Niki is the most effective manager I know,” Hanway said. “She is recognized statewide for her expertise in the water field and in infrastructure finance. Our partners know Niki and trust her judgment, and Water Department staff are excited for the continued progress that her leadership will bring.”
Iverson takes over at an important time. The cities of Hillsboro, Beaverton and Tualatin Valley Water District are working on the massive Willamette Water Supply Program, which will pump water from Wilsonville to Washington County by 2026. Construction on the project is currently underway.
“Niki is highly regarded and respected in the regional water community, and has the necessary skills and work ethic to lead the Hillsboro Water Department and JWC well into the future,” Interim City Manager Robby Hammond said. “Hillsboro has a long-standing reputation of forward thinking and strategic planning, and Niki is well prepared to continue that tradition.”
Hillsboro Tribune, Olivia Singer Tuesday, February 19, 2019
There are seven years left in the development of the Willamette Water Supply Program.
Roughly halfway through a massive $1.2 billion project creating an additional water source for cities across Washington County, including Hillsboro, officials say it’s still on track to go live in 2026, and the next few years will see lots of construction in the region.
COURTESY PHOTO – A map and schedule of planned projects within the new water system development.
Since 2012, the Tualatin Valley Water District and the city of Hillsboro have been partnering to build the Willamette Water Supply System, which will draw in water from the Willamette River near Wilsonville through a new pipeline system to Hillsboro.
It’s an effort to increase water supply for the projected growth Hillsboro and neighboring cities are expecting to see in the next couple decades, an opportunity for Hillsboro to have more than one water source — which most surrounding cities do — and it’s a seismically resilient water system, TVWD media and community relations coordinator Marlys Mock said.
Coordinators are proud of the work they’ve done up to this point, Mock said, with 96 percent of the money spent on the project so far spent locally, all completed construction done by local contractors, and with minimal disruption construction-wise, coordinating with local jurisdictions to build the pipeline at the same time as road projects, lessening traffic and construction impacts and reducing project costs.
“(The project) has been broken up (into sections) partly because of jurisdictional boundaries, but also so that local contractors would have an ability to bid and win the work,” Mock said. “We didn’t want such an enormous project that it would take an international company to do, and so that effort has worked because so far all of our contractors are local.
The pipeline will run through South Hillsboro — from Southeast Blanton Street to Tualatin Valley Highway, to Southeast Frances Street and Southwest Farmington Road to Southeast Blanton Street — with some of that portion of the project’s construction already underway. Project managers were able to coordinate with the new construction happening in South Hillsboro, building the pipeline at the same time the major parts of construction take place, Mock said.
More local construction, including the Cornelius Pass Pipeline Project from Southeast Frances Street to Highway 26, is expected to begin in 2021 and be completed in 2023, according to the project map.
The additional water supply will serve well for the region’s future, Mock said.
“After a big earthquake, like what they are expecting, this is the only system that will be up and running,” Mock said. “So for the regional recovery aspect and trying to get water back online in weeks or days instead of months or longer, (it is) really important for that.”
Mock added, “Again, the additional source for Hillsboro so that they are not so dependent on one, and then we will still have a connection with the City of Portland, but this also gives us that local ownership and control. … To own your own system, that’s pretty great.”
Mock said other cities, including Beaverton, are likely to join in on the partnership. But whether they choose to or not, the water system will serve as an emergency backup for them.
“We hope to have emergency connections along the way to other communities, so even if the City of Sherwood decides they don’t want to become part of this partnership, they still have an emergency intertie so that if something happened to their source, they could get water from us,” Mock said. “But the more partners that come on, the better.”
The development of an additional water supply through a partnership “supports the region’s plans for responsible growth within the urban growth boundary,” coordinators said. “There is enough water for today — but steps need to be taken now to have an adequate supply to meet future demands and provide greater safety and reliability.”
“The proposed 2019 water rate adjustments varied by customer class in order to ensure each class is paying their fair share based on how customers use the City’s water system and how much water they use,”
Water rates will rise by up to 20 percent for some of Hillsboro’s businesses, and by smaller amounts for single-family residential households, starting in 2019.
The Hillsboro Utilities Commission approved rate increases for the New Year, the city announced this week. Increases will also affect water customers in Cornelius, Gaston and the L.A. Water Cooperative in Laurelwood, which buy their water wholesale from Hillsboro.
The rate increases vary by customer class. The largest increase is for irrigation, which will see a 20 percent hike. Multi-family residential, commercial and public entities will shoulder a 14.7 percent increase — more than 4 percentage points less than what was originally proposed, as the commission decided on a somewhat smaller increase “after receiving input from Hillsboro community members during the rate setting process,” the city stated in a news release.
Increases for single-family residential, nonprofit and industrial customers will stay in the single-digit percentages. Single-family residential customers will see a 5 percent increase, nonprofits will experience a 6 percent increase and industrial water bills will go up by 8.5 percent.
The typical single-family residential customer will see their bill increase by about $1.61, according to the City of Hillsboro.
The water rate increase is greater for Hillsboro’s wholesale customers. Cornelius’ water rate increase is approved at 9.2 percent. Gaston and Laurelwood will get a 10.9 percent bump in rates.
For years, partners have been preparing to transform this reach of Chicken Creek. In 1996, thanks in part to the grassroots support of Friends of Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, the US Fish & Wildlife Service purchased the surrounding land and initiated restoration efforts. In 2009, a half-mile upstream from the refuge, neighbors on Green Heron Drive began working with the City of Sherwood, contractors, and other partners to enhance the creek near its crossing with busy Roy Rogers Road. Since 2017, the US Fish & Wildlife Service has been creating opportunities for volunteers to do hands-on creekside restoration near the southern edge of the refuge.
More recently, partners embarked upon a long-awaited project that will realign Chicken Creek to its historic path, embracing the role that beavers can play in the placement of woody debris and revegetation. Project steps include modeling and excavating the historic path of the creek; rerouting and filling in the current channel; removing invasive species and replanting native vegetation; reestablishing a creek connection to the floodplain; and beginning long-term monitoring.
“When Hillsboro built its new city hall, the Hillsboro Civic Center, in 2005, it was built to withstand a major earthquake. Likewise, the city’s major construction project building a new water supply line from Wilsonville to Hillsboro, is being built to keep water pipes intact, even during an earthquake.”
Locals say cities are working to protect the region, but a massive quake will still cause havoc.
The “Big One” will devastate the Portland area even more than scientists expected, according to a new state geologists’ study of how a major earthquake will affect the tri-county area.
The study, released Thursday, March 15, found that a magnitude 9 earthquake centered off the Oregon Coast in the Cascadia Subduction Zone would cause tens of thousands of casualties in the Portland area, displace tens of thousands of residents from their homes, and cost tens of billions of dollars in building damage.
Virtually all of western Washington County’s population centers are within an area shaded red — the second-highest level of danger — on a risk map released along with the study by the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.
The study estimates Hillsboro would be second only to Portland among cities in the metro area in forecast damage from a major Cascadia earthquake.
Depending on whether the magnitude 9 offshore quake occurs during the daytime or the nighttime, there could be as many as 7,700 casualties in Washington County alone, the study warns.
Up to 121 people could die immediately in an earthquake in Hillsboro, according to the study. In Forest Grove and Cornelius, the study estimates about 41 dead between the two cities.
As many as 14 percent of buildings could be total losses in the county, with the cost to repair damaged buildings estimated between $7 billion and $11.6 billion in today’s dollars.
Across the county, up to 37,700 people could be displaced for an extended period, according to the study. In the tri-county region, the estimates for long-term displaced range from 16,800 to 85,300.
Casualties, damage and displacement are expected to be higher if the soil is saturated — in other words, if it has been raining and the ground is soft, as it is for much of the year in northwestern Oregon. An earthquake that strikes during the day is expected to be deadlier as well. The top end of estimates represents the worst-case scenario, in which the soil is saturated and the quake hits during daytime hours.
While the eastern end of the region, including the Gresham area, is not expected to be as hard-hit as Portland and its Westside suburbs, damage is still forecast to be widespread as far as the Cascades.
“Although damage estimates vary widely throughout the study area, no community will be unharmed,” the authors concluded.
Recovering from a Cascadia earthquake won’t be just a matter of putting out fires and stemming floods. There will be region-wide challenges to restore power, bridges and freeways, provide emergency medical care and assure food and water can be delivered.
It will take months just to inspect homes and other damaged buildings to see if they are safe. Meanwhile, many will have to find other shelter, and some work places will have to be closed or relocated.
The Forest Grove Sustainability Commission, which advises the Forest Grove City Council on environmental issues, recently held an event at which Stacy Metzger dispensed earthquake preparedness advice.
Metzger volunteers as the “Map Your Neighborhood” coordinator for Forest Grove Fire & Rescue.
“For Forest Grove alone, the prediction is an earthquake of this size would create $496 million in property damage, 2,200 people in need of shelters, nearly 600 injuries (142 of which would require hospitalization), and 36 fatalities,” Forest Grove Fire & Rescue reported on its official Facebook page, listing some of the projections for the city from the state geologists’ study.
Such an earthquake is hard to imagine and difficult to predict, the agency said, but it would “undoubtedly devastate northwest Oregon.”
“This is a good wake-up call, and it is even more reason to get prepared for a large earthquake,” Metzger said Monday.
Metzger has two degrees in geology and spends a lot of time thinking about earthquake preparedness. But even she can’t predict what an earthquake will look like in her community of Forest Grove when it hits.
“I just say be prepared for the worst, and then you’re prepared for everything or anything, big or small,” she said.
Washington County and the Oregon Office of Emergency Management urge residents to be “two weeks ready,” keeping a two-week supply of necessities on hand in case of a major earthquake that cripples infrastructure and disrupts the transportation network. But Metzger encourages anyone who might find a two-week requirement daunting to start out by building a three-day kit. As she pointed out, you can always add to it later.
Hillsboro city officials have been preparing for a major earthquake for years, according to Tammy Bryan, emergency manager for the Hillsboro Fire Department.
“Prior to the release of this study, the region was reliant on information that was 20 years old,” Bryan said. “While this study does not tell us what will happen to specific homes or businesses, it does give us a greater understanding of potential impacts for our City. This information reinforces the need for continued planning, training, and collaboration to further reduce these impacts and become more resilient.”
When Hillsboro built its new city hall, the Hillsboro Civic Center, in 2005, it was built to withstand a major earthquake. Likewise, the city’s major construction project building a new water supply line from Wilsonville to Hillsboro, is being built to keep water pipes intact, even during an earthquake.
“While the threat of an earthquake may seem daunting, making a plan and identifying things you can do now to prepare can significantly reduce injuries and property damage,” the city wrote on its website about earthquake preparedness.
In the event of an earthquake, city services, such as police and fire, will likely be busy, so officials warn residents to prepare to deal with emergencies until help arrives.
“Emergency preparedness is a shared responsibility,” the city said. “Citizens need to have some basic first aid skills and supplies, and will need to fend for themselves for all but the most severe calls until the demands for service returns to normal.”
In addition to planning emergency kits, city officials urge residents to make homes “earthquake safe” by bolting down and securing water heaters, refrigerators, furnaces and gas appliances, and repairing leaky gas lines and fastening shelves, mirrors and large picture frames to walls.
New software, new findings
The new study shows more severe impacts than previous estimates. But it didn’t bring any surprises or point to any new prevention efforts that haven’t been considered before, said Dan Douthit, spokesman for the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management.
“We’ve already been expecting significant damages,” Douthit said, “and every year that goes by, we get more and more prepared.”
Emergency planners still will focus on the region’s greatest vulnerabilities, including more than 1,600 unreinforced masonry buildings in the city of Portland. Many of the buildings in Forest Grove, one of the region’s oldest cities, feature unreinforced masonry as well.
“We know that unreinforced masonry buildings are likely to collapse, especially during a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake,” Douthit said. “Those pose an immediate life safety risk for people in them and people walking by during an earthquake.”
But the new study, using more sophisticated Hazus software developed for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), enabled scientists to drill down to damages at the neighborhood level as never before. The software is being constantly refined, incorporating real-world experiences from floods and earthquakes taking place around the world.
That enabled scientists to calculate the number of deaths, life-threatening injuries and hospitalizations that will occur in different neighborhood clusters in Portland and cities around the tri-county area.
Scientists now calculate there have been at least 40 large-magnitude earthquakes over the past 10,000 years along the 600-mile-long Cascadia subduction zone off the coasts of Oregon, Washington and Northern California. The most recent one occurred in 1700, and one recent study calculated there is a 15 to 20 percent chance that another one will occur in the next 50 years off the central and northern Oregon Coast.
Though considerably less likely, an earthquake of magnitude 6.8 epicentered in Portland’s West Hills would be even more catastrophic locally — causing more than twice the casualties and damages — according to the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries study.
State geologists plan to release a second phase of their study next year, charting the potential impacts to Columbia County and Clark County, Wash., to the north of the tri-county region.
Mark Miller and Geoff Pursinger contributed to this report.