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Council votes to decommission Mt. Tabor reservoirs


PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Work will soon begin on decommissioning the Mt. tabor reservoirs, which will be preserved in their historic condition.The City Council took what could be the final vote to decommission the three open reservoirs in Mt. Tabor on Wednesday.

The council approved legal findings drafted by the City Attorney's Office to support the Water Bureau's request for a land use change to do the work necessary to disconnect the reservoirs from the water distribution system.

“We appreciate Portland City Council’s decision to approve the Land Use application. This is a step forward in an extensive process that will provide the Water Bureau with the legal authority to decommission the open reservoirs at Mt. Tabor, thereby meeting modern public health and safety practices and standards, complying with federal and state drinking water regulations, making the water system more reliable, resilient and secure,” David Shaff, the outgoing bureau administrator said after the vote.

The bureau will now seek the permits to do the work, which will take place at 11 location around the reservoirs. Among other things, a dozen trees will be removed, trenches will be dug to reach underground pipes, pipes will be cut and plugged, valves will be installed, and new above ground utility vaults will be built. The bureau will also plant 30 trees in Mount Tabor Park to help replace those that are removed.

For a map of the work, go here.

The project is expected to cost $7.4 million.

The council previously approved a plan negotiated between the Portland Water Bureau and the Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association to restore and preserve the reservoirs in their historic condition. It will cost an estimated $4 million, and possibly $1.5 million more if newer lighting is replaced at one of the reservoirs.

“The Water Bureau team, they sat down with the group and they went with an open mind and an open heart. I think what they achieved is a real breakthrough,” said Commissioner Nick Fish, who is in charge of the bureau.

The bureau says the work is necessary to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules intended to prevent the spread of water-borne illnesses. The council has promised the EPA the work will be completed by the end of the year.

Many activists and neighborhood residents believe the open reservoirs are safe and should not be altered. The MTNA prefers they remain the same and only worked on the preservation plan because that is what the council said it would consider. Some critics are considering challenging the council vote before the state Land Use Board of Appeals.