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Oversized replacement of old Bolton Reservoir wastes money

A July 17 Tidings article by Tidings reporter Patrick Malee was entitled “Council approves $1 million for work on reservoir.” It said the West Linn City Council unanimously approved a $1,080,957 project design contract with the engineering firm Murray, Smith & Associates (M, S & A). This contract applies to replacing the existing old Bolton Reservoir with a new oversized 4 million gallon reservoir in accord with the 2008 adopted Water Master Plan. It’s estimated to cost $9 million. Instead, the adequate through build out 2004 adopted Water Plan proposes a new 2.4 million gallon Bolton Reservoir costing only an estimated $4 million.

Our City Council is committed to implementing the excessively expensive ($21 million in 2008 dollars) and oversized 2008 adopted Water Master Plan instead of staying with the 2004 adopted plan estimated to cost $6,914,000 less.

West Linn’s Public Works Director Lance Calvert told the council that the M,S & A firm is the premier provider of these kinds of services in the area. Certainly others would very much disagree with Calvert’s inflated claim, including myself.

I was a registered professional engineer when I had first-hand experience with Phil Smith of M,S & A in the early ’90s. In that experience I certainly didn’t find M, S & A to be commendable nor always consulting in accord with the principles of water system engineering and the characteristics of centrifugal pumps. For example, Smith repudiated perfectly valid results of staged tests performed on the Bolton and Horton pump stations on Oct. 28 and Oct. 29 of 1993, which I and two other citizen engineers witnessed. The tests showed the firm pumping capacity of the Bolton Pump Station to be 1797 gpm (gallons per minute), not 1900 gpm as claimed by Smith. The firm capacity of a pump station is with its largest pump out of service.

Regarding the Horton Pump Station, test protocol stipulated that its firm capacity be measured when the water level in the Rosemont Tower was at 20 feet and at 25 feet. At 25 feet it measured 1992 gpm and at 20 feet it measured 2115 gpm.

The tests showed the pumping capabilities of the Bolton and Horton pump stations at that time were considerably less than what the City had been using in approving development applications within water zones served by those pump stations.

Also oddly, Smith would add nominal ratings of pumps together when running in parallel at a pump station and call that sum the rating of the pump station. That’s entirely wrong and in conflict with pump performance facts. When energizing, for example, two identical centrifugal pumps running in parallel, their pumping capability is not twice their nominal ratings, but something significantly less.

To simply add up nominal ratings of pumps running in parallel at a pump station makes that station appear to have considerably more pumping capacity to accommodate growth than it actually has.

Smith had earlier gone before the Boundary Commission (which no longer exists) on July 30, 1992 and testified that the firm pumping capacities of the Bolton and Horton pump stations were respectively 2000 gpm and 2550 gpm. The Boundary Commission then approved the annexation of developer Herb Koss’ Phase 1 of Cascade Summit, based in part on Smith’s testified erroneous pump station capacities.

Bob Thomas lives in West Linn.



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