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City approves final design for wetland project


The facility will improve upon Prinevilles current wastewater facility while creating a new recreational area

The City of Prineville has finally completed design of a new wastewater treatment facility that will double as a community wetland.

Now, as they move forward, staff members are trying to pave the way for grant funding to cut the cost of the approximately $8.8 million project in half.

The project will convert the current lagoon wastewater treatment system into a wetland that will not only dispose of treated water, but provide a variety of recreational opportunities.

“There will be 5.3 miles of walking trails throughout the different habitats,” said City Engineer Eric Klann. “For somebody who wants to go out and go walk their dog or go for a jog, it will be a great location for that.”

The trail system will include a variety of different-length loops, including a 5K trail that Klann believes people could utilize for fundraisers, races, or other events.

Several wetland cells throughout the facility will include peninsulas where the public can access and view different plant and wildlife habitats.

“The wetland, depending on the time of year and what habitats we are going off of, would be anything from open water surrounded by cattails to maybe more of an upland bird habitat that is just wet for a few weeks during the year,” Klann said.

The plan also includes informational kiosks that will explain the wastewater treatment function of the wetland as well as the habitats within the facility.

“It’s just a nice place to go out, take a walk, and learn something new,” Klann remarked.

Regarding wastewater treatment, the wetland enables the city to save money as they expand the current facility to meet future demands.

The current system utilizes two lagoon ponds that treat the water, which is then irrigated onto city-owned land. The water is then further purified as it seeps into the ground and eventually joins the Crooked River.

However, a feasibility study determined that the system would not support the amount of wastewater generated by community growth during the next 20 years. The city initially concluded that to remedy the situation, they would need to build an approximately $33 million mechanical treatment plant. They later determined that constructing a wetland, featuring multiple cells where treated water could evaporate or seep into the ground, would keep up with demand, but cost about 75 percent less money to build.

As it turns out, the city may save even more money than initially anticipated because of grant opportunities made available for wetland construction.

“Those grants would be tied to riparian improvements that we are doing to the river, the recreational opportunities with the trails, and the wetland habitat,” Klann explained.

He went on to say that the grants could cover as much as 50 percent of the project cost. However, some of that funding is contingent upon proof that the city is committed to the project. Consequently, on Tuesday evening, the Prineville City Council considered a resolution that authorized the final design of the wetland, committed funding, and set a schedule for completion.

Prior to its unanimous approval, Councilor Steve Uffelman said he was “ecstatic that there was any possible grant money for one of these projects.” He did however question whether any of the grants that the city might pursue would require them to expand the project to meet funding criteria.

Klann said he did not expect that to happen, noting that the design and estimated cost had already, to the best of his knowledge, factored in anticipated requirements to secure the grants.

Going forward, city staff members now begin the arduous permitting process, which Klann expects to take two years to complete.

“For us to go in and work in wetland areas and work in the river areas, the permits are ridiculously long,” he said.

Assuming everything works out as planned, construction should begin in 2015, with completion anticipated in 2016.

“It’s a fun project,” Klann said. “We are looking forward to it.”