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Petitions for water and sewer board to be filed Friday

Supporters of an independently elected Portland Public Water District plan to file petitions with over 50,000 voter signatures with city elections officials on Friday.

The proposed measure only needs a little more than 29,000 valid Portland voter signatures to qualify for the May 2014 Primary Election ballot.

"I'm very confident the measure will qualify," says Kent Craford, a lobbyist and co-chief petition for the measure. The other co-chief petitioners is Floy Jones, co-founder of Friends of the Reservoirs, a grassroots organization trying to preserve the city's five open water reservoirs.

The proposed measure would amend the City Charter to create an elected board that would take control of the Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services, which operates the city's sewer system and stormwater management programs. It was filed in reaction to skyrocketing city utility rates and the council's decision to stop fighting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules requiring the city to replace the open reservoirs. The petition drive was primarily supported by companies that use large amounts of city water.

Although the measure has yet to qualify for the ballot, it is already opposed by a number of environmental organization who worry the board will cut innovative stormwater management programs.

A Mutnomah County Circuit judge has issued an opinion questioning some of the wording of the measure, suggesting it will be challenged in court if it passes.