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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Disconnecting the Mount Tabor reservoirs

One of the stories that got this blog off and running back in 2002 was the proposal to cover or bury Portland's open-air drinking water reservoirs in Mount Tabor and Washington Parks. To us, it seemed like a waste of money. The city water bureau, then run by Dan "Big Pipe" Saltzman, tried to ram through a plan to cover the Mount Tabor reservoirs. Saltzman finally backed off when some big shots told him he wasn't providing enough public process, but not before the city blew $4 million on a covers project. This included $425,000 or so for the covers themselves, which were auctioned off on eBay for around $23,000. And some water bureau employees were the winning lowball bidders! Good times.

After that fiasco, one might have expected a lot of hearings and public hand-wringing to take place before anything was done to alter the form or function of the reservoirs. But the extensive process never came to pass. When Fireman Randy took over the water bureau, suddenly it was a done deal that huge underground tanks on Powell Butte would replace the Mount Tabor reservoirs. Those tanks are now under construction, and the time has come to start hiring folks to execute the task of disconnecting Mount Tabor from the city's drinking water supply.

Here's the advertisement for bids that the city has recently put out, for "engineering design, land use review process, site development permit with conditional use process, and support services" in connection with the disconnecting of the reservoirs. And here's the list of four firms that have responded. The city advertised an anticipated cost of $500,000 for these services.

It's interesting that they're calling this project "Mount Tabor Reservoir Adjustments." So cute -- guess they don't want the public to know what it's really all about, which is disconnecting. At Portland City Hall, ignorance is most definitely bliss.

Is unhooking the reservoirs a bad thing? It will certainly be disruptive and expensive, and heaven knows our water bills are already rocketing to the moon. Some say that the underground tanks will be more susceptible to certain types of contamination problems than the fresh-air reservoirs are, and the critics make a good case about that.

Our biggest fear is that once the reservoirs aren't actually functioning, those two sections of prime city parkland are going to be fair game for all sorts of supposed improvements. We've already seen the city try to sell off parts of Mount Tabor Park on the sneak. One shudders to think what will happen when the reservoirs fall into play, which won't be too far off in the future.

Comments (25)

New skate park?

Swimming pool in the summer, ice skating in winter.

But seriously, wouldn't it at least be wise to consider keeping them in service as water reservoirs in addition to the new underground tanks? Redundancy and all that?

Back in the early '90's or so, the city sold off the decommissioned reservoir at the corner of SE Division and 60th. I think it's a retirement home now with the pumphouse still on the corner.

I'm sure there's a heap of $$ under those decommissioned reservoirs that could be used for all sorts of "improvements" like trolleys, more light-rail, bike-freeways, and condo subsidies.

Come to think of it, maybe Portland has too many parks anyways. Dogs don't need that much toilet space.

Here's what will happen: the reservoirs will be capped, sodded (or paved) over, "improved", brightly lit, and used for either ball fields or courts (both would likely include some parking). Mt. Tabor is (and will) slowly become a theme park, one piece at a time. There's also one option that's unlikely but has surely been secretly discussed: developing the reservoir land as housing. It could happen.

Likely they'll be heralded as Portland's newest 'greenspaces'... that is until these so-called keepers of the public treasury work out a new scam with real estate developers.

Looks to me like prime "water oriented view property" for Homer and co to develop.
The fix is probably already in on this scam.
Maybe you folks in Portland can start your wood stoves with your water and sewer bills?

We cannot and must not lose this dear treasure. It will take the heart right out of our city!! But should we be surprised, they have been chipping away for years at the City of Roses, our once beloved city. This though is truly the City that Works working us over with Lies Lies Lies to order to achieve the channel to move our money to corporations.

Betrayal of the highest kind and from our “local boy” Leonard!!

Whatever it becomes, I'm sure a Streetcar will have to be built to get to it.

They might need the water to flush the Big pipe now and again:

Isn't that largely what Jack's blog is all about? The kidnapping and dismemberment of the City of Roses?

For the last decade many of us have fought against the covering of the reservoirs and adding unnecessary treatment to the Bull Run water system. The City of Portland Indepent Review Panel majority in 2004 agreed with our open reservoir conclusion. All of our scientifically supported statements have proven to be correct over the years. There has been no public health problem from our drinking water and open reservoirs in 100 years. Conversely, all of EPA’s assertions have failed to provide evidence of a public health problem from Cryptosporidium in municipally treated surface drinking water. EPA said we should expect hundreds of deaths each year. Since 1993 none have been shown and the ones in Milwaukee are suspect because it was a multi-week long sewage event with many many pathogens concurrently present that contribute to disease, not just one. When you drink sewage water for weeks bad things can happen. We have no sewage exposure. A year after Milwaukee, it was shown labs around the US were inconsistent and unreliable in their Cryptosporidium determinations. EPA said we should expect thousands and thousands of drinking water cryptosporidiosis cases. It has not happened. We should expect to pay little for such drinking water protection. None are true because EPA used “estimates” based on “assertions” from heavily engineered models that are useless.

Open reservoirs have never had a death from microorganisms or chemicals. Covered reservoirs cannot say that. Open reservoirs allow venting of Radon from our wellfield, chloroform from disinfection, etc. Covered reservoirs do not do that so these chemicals will end up in your homes schools and businesses. Portland Water Bureau says algae are a problem in open reservoirs from sunlight. Algal growth comes from the fertilizer chemicals found in our wellfield, not sunlight. They are more visible in summer when this happens. Algae survive in covered reservoirs too. The open reservoir oxygenation allows for natural disinfection and a cleaner, better quality of water. This is not found in covered reservoirs that we know are covered with petrochemical- based asphalt, as they are in Seattle. The same engineer building ours in Portland.

New York City has an open reservoir they are hoping to keep open too. Their science is consistent with ours. We are not alone.

In the fall of 2003 I participated in the writing of an Oregonian editorial along with Arlington Heights Neighborhood Association President Jeff Boly, “Greatest Public Works Disaster” posted on this blog. The content then, is also supported now, by a tremendous weight of public health evidence.

We don not need to cover our open reservoirs or add treatment to our Bull Run drinking water. Period.

Please ask our Congressional delegation for a Waiver exempting us from this unnecessary regulation that will degrade our drinking water from added toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, for no measurable public health benefit. Thank you.

Scott Fernandez, M.Sc. biology /microbiology

Thank you Scott for your accurate and excellent letter.
However, I fear that the 'congressional delegation' is probably not on the side of reason or economics. Earl the Pearl is in cahoots with the developers and he no longer really lives here anymore; David Wu should be in rehab and has aways been pretty useless, and as for Wyden (sen from NY) and the other guy...well they serve the masters of Goldi the pedophile.
It is all very depressing for those of us who remember Wayne Morse and Tom Mcall, and more recently Darleen Hooley.

Please ask our Congressional delegation for a Waiver exempting us from this unnecessary regulation that will degrade our drinking water from added toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, for no measurable public health benefit.

A Wisconsin style “water rebellion” from the people to demand this Waiver for ourselves and for the children who depend on the adults in a community to take care of their drinking water. Thank you to Scott Fernandez who does care and sent this letter.

Given our official's tendency to secrecy and dishonesty, and their apparent disdain for the general population, maybe there's more to this than just covered reservoirs.

Another shell game with the public money pots? Who even knows?

Formative moments have been spent, over many years, by many people, sitting on the slope overlooking the reservoir and this beautiful city.

Why, why, does it seem like every good thing is prey? Why can no beautiful thing be left undisturbed?

I see that now the governors have sent the toddlers off to their naps and are now planning a no-frills CRC. The O article did not spell out the implication that the current bridge, a perfectly good bridge, and "iconic" in its own, machine-age way, will be brought down, for a mere 150 million dollars to the wrecking crews.

Some days, I just feel like Miss Haversham.

This is part of huge capital "improvements" program to comply with an absurd EPA one-size-fits-all regulation - a capital program that will more likely degrade than improve our water system.

This and other projects will rob citizens and businesses of scarce resources and, according to public health officials, will NOT improve public health one bit. What a shameful waste.

The statement and figures below (from the February 2011 meeting of Public Utility Review Board) demonstrate what is about to hit us in the next five years unless we resist RIGHT NOW.

If the pending Water Bureau budget is approved by Council Council, prepare for a 13.9% increase in water rates next year and an increase of over 80% in the next five years.

Please contact Portland Commissioners and the congressional delegation today.

"Portland’s ratepayers are being asked to shoulder a tremendous financial burden from a Portland Water Bureau CIP that will undergo tremendous increases in the next five years.
PWB Forecast Capital for the period FY’12 – ’16 is $679 M

PWB Total Revenue Debt will increase from $399 M in FY ’11 to $849 M in FY ‘16

PWB Total Debt Service will increase from $28.3 M in FY’11 to $70.4 M in FY’16"



ecohuman:Here's what will happen: the reservoirs will be capped, sodded (or paved) over, "improved", brightly lit, and used for either ball fields or courts (both would likely include some parking)........developing the reservoir land as housing..

Is this why Nick Fish goes along with Leonard?

Isn't that largely what Jack's blog is all about? The kidnapping and dismemberment of the City of Roses?

Yes Mr. Grumpy,

Like I have mentioned before, it is difficult enough to swallow financial corruption aspects of this, but to actually have to swallow the ruined and toxic water, I am at a loss of proper words for this.

We must stop this abuse. They have crossed the line period. This affects each and every one of us and our personal health.

If everyone who commented here today just sent a zip lock bag of "effluent" to Randy's office....I wonder what would happen?
Would he get the message that this idea stinks?

I don't believe Randy knows the difference between effluent and affluent.

But then, for him, there is likely no difference.

Most who watched as the reservoir idea "died", thought that is that, it's saved, even people who are active in the community, like NA chair and board folks.

It's sad.

I am just about numb dealing with all this, from Portland to Madison WI to Washington D.C.

I think I'll go back to listening to Judy Collins. One of my favorite songs from her album (remember albums?) "Wildflowers" is aptly named:"Albatross"

Congressional Waiver, Administrative Waiver, both would work to halt the process thus far, however our "fearless (or should we just say clueless) local leaders" are failing all the citizens of Portland. Our senators and representatives that we have elected to serve our community is Washington DC also fails us. With all that there is to support how unnecessary, unhealthy and unnatural this is more people should begin a revolt against our elected officials. The water treatment in Portland is on the radar and it seems ridiculous the millions of dollars being spent aren't being addressed as fraud. Find your voice, and scream out to our city council. STOP THIS MADNESS!!!!!!!!!!

Once considered a progressive city, Portland is now moving backward. Instead of protecting & sustaining the organic, safe drinking water system we currently enjoy, our water will be exposed to unnecessary chemicals. Instead of moving toward transparency and public involvement, our elected officials increasingly traffic in subterfuge. How will regular citizens be able to afford water when rates rise 80% over the next few years? I can barely afford to pay my water bill now! I agree that we need a people's revolt/demonstration/sit-in/something visible that will raise the public's awareness of this urgent issue AND halt further disconnection of the reservoirs. If you have any ideas, email me at mttaborhouse at This issue affects everyone living in Portland, not just Tabor residents.

Scott Fernandez is spot-on. I am a new arrival from Idaho and am amazed at the Wapato Jail, PGE Park, etc. fiascoes. What worries me most about the water issue is paying way more for lowering the quality of water and then having to sell our water system to Nestle because we can no longer afford to run our own system. Good Gravy--Charlie Brown! Wake up Portland and go Wisconsin on our leaders who are supposed to be protecting us and working for the good of the commons. Amen.

There is no trust left. How can we believe anything that comes out of the PWB now under Leonard as Water Commissioner?

The dismantling of reservoirs, $400 Million!! Crazy-making this is. We citizens need to put a stop to this dismantling of our good system and reservoirs.

There is something so wrong, so very wrong with this picture, and our whole area will be devastated by the time he is done, I called him a betrayer of the public interest yesterday in a fit of anger, and although today somewhat calmer, I still call it that way. The Mayor and the others have betrayed us as well or they wouldn't go along with all of this.


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