The county wants to add a wastewater treatment facility and amenities to the riverfront property.

COURTESY PHOTO: COLUMBIA COUNTY - A proposed Prescott wastewater treatment facility would only use 2-3 acres out of more than 60, if Portland General Electric agrees to donate or sell the land to the county.Columbia County has asked Portland General Electric to turn over ownership of Prescott Beach, as the county and city develop a sewer system to serve the city of Prescott's 82 residents.

PGE owns the majority of the stretch of beach north of Prescott — by far the county's smallest city — but has been leasing it to the county as a recreation area.

Prescott's 38 homes are currently served by a hodgepodge of water systems, but local leaders say the current system isn't adequate for residents or the environment.

Only six homes in the city have good septic systems, while the rest are "questionable or failing," Prescott Mayor Laurie Blair wrote in a letter to PGE. 

Prescott's adult population skews toward retired seniors living on fixed incomes, adding to the difficulty of maintaining individual septic systems.

The median age in Prescott is 58, far older than the statewide median of 40.

Grants for infrastructure projects typically require that the grant recipient owns the property they plan to improve, so the county government has asked PGE to transfer the land to the county's ownership.

PGE's riverfront property, which Columbia County has leased for more than 30 years, totals more than 60 acres.

The wastewater treatment facility, however, would only use 2 to 3 acres.

"Preliminary feasibility studies have identified this as the only area in the vicinity that could meet regulatory requirements for installing an appropriate and adequate community system," Erin O'Connell, the county public health department's environmental health specialist, wrote in a letter accompanying the county's request to PGE.

Columbia County commissioners also said work at the property would include recreational amenities.

"County ownership of this land will pave the way for additional infrastructure investments that will substantially expand the park amenities to include an RV campground, increase access to the Columbia River, and provide critically needed services to the residents of the City of Prescott," the commissioners wrote to PGE.

The proposed amenities include RV parking spaces, camping spaces, cabins, new restrooms, shower facilities and an RV dump station. 

"These infrastructure improvements will attract campers, new day-use guests, and improve access to the river via the proposed boat launch," the commissioners wrote. 

The board of commissioners "understands the value of the property," they added in their joint letter, but also noted that expanding recreation amenities and building a wastewater treatment facility for Prescott would require a "significant financial contribution" and "investment of labor, resources, and funds."

The water system to serve Prescott and the park amenities would collectively cost roughly $1.3 million, according to preliminary estimates from a wastewater system company.

"We respectfully ask that PGE consider gifting the land to Columbia County, in order to maximize the Board's ability to support these initiatives," the letter stated.

"Alternatively, Columbia County is prepared to extend an offer of $250,000 to purchase the Prescott Beach recreational area from PGE."

PGE notified the board the utility company had received the offer last week but said its review process would take two or more weeks, Columbia County spokesperson Mark Pacheco said on Monday.

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