Wilsonville Spokesman (Wednesday, 14 January 2015, Written by Josh Kulla)

Wilsonville City Councilors unanimously voted Jan. 5 to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Tualatin Valley Water District and five metro area cities, a move that takes the city further down the road toward a new water treatment plant.

The agreement binds Wilsonville, the water district and the cities of Sherwood, Tualatin, Tigard, Beaverton and Hillsboro into a partnership that is aimed at producing a governance agreement by the end of 2016. The agreement would essentially spell out the details behind a future system of pipelines that would send Willamette River water from a new water treatment plant in Wilsonville to the participating cities.

“It’s adding time to our extended schedule and it’s paying for having the facilitator continue to work with us as we work on how to solve this really, really complex problem,” Wilsonville Community Development Director Nancy Kraushaar told Wilsonville City Councilors at their Jan. 5 meeting.

The agreement calls for “continued cooperation by the parties to develop mutually acceptable future agreements or memorandums of understanding related to the ownership, finance, design and construction of water system facilities including the lower and potential future upper water treatment plants and the governance, use, operation, maintenance, repair and replacement of those facilities.”

It also guarantees, as much as possible, uninterrupted water service for Wilsonville and Sherwood as expansion and construction take place. These are the only cities currently using water from the existing treatment plant.

The Tualatin Valley Water District is set over the next five years to plan and design not only a new and expanded water treatment plant in Wilsonville, together with the city of Hillsboro, but also a 26-mile network of pipeline and reservoirs. Dubbed the Willamette Water Supply Program, construction on the estimated $1 billion project would tentatively start in 2021 and take five more years to complete. Water would begin flowing to Hillsboro and other cities that get water from the TVWD by 2026.

Other ongoing work on the project includes the design of a water transmission pipeline that would be installed as part of a large extension of Southwest 124th Avenue connecting Tualatin-Sherwood Road with Grahams Ferry Road.

The memorandum does not bind its signees to any future agreements. At the same time, key agreements that will be required to complete the project will cover topics including the S.W. 124th Avenue Pipeline Project, the Transmission Pipeline Agreement, Reservoir Agreement, Willamette River Water Treatment Plant Agreement(s) and Right of Way Usage Agreements for city rights of way occupied by water facilities.

A crucial piece of the puzzle will be a new water treatment plant that would be built next to Wilsonville’s existing Willamette River Water Treatment Plant.

The “Lower” plant, as it is referred to by planners, was built in 2001 with expansion from its current treatment capacity of 15 million gallons per day in mind. When expansion is complete it will be able to produce up to 70 million gallons per day. The water district envisions a second, “Upper” plant to eventually be built on the same property.

Wilsonville councilors have expressed concern over future costs and water rates, saying city residents should not have to bear the brunt of the cost for supplying water to other cities. At the same time, they also realize that playing host to a pair of treatment plants that supply water regionally could put Wilsonville in an enviable position down the line.

“Water itself is going to be a huge, huge resource with some jurisdictions,” Councilor Scott Starr said. “And some municipalities, especially in the southwest, might find themselves in a very tight spot. So for us to work with these other cities while still maintaining our interests could be very, very beneficial to us, maybe not immediately, but in the years to come it could be very, very beneficial to us.”

For more information, visit ourreliablewater.org.

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