Oregon City voters should approve WES outfall measure
This November, Oregon City residents will vote on ballot measure 3-562, which, if passed, will provide an easement to Clackamas Water Environment Services (WES), the region's wastewater service provider, to install the last portion of an outfall pipeline underneath Jon Storm Park.
This critical piece of infrastructure is needed because the current outfall is reaching capacity. The new outfall will allow for treated wastewater to be discharged safely into the Willamette River. Voters should also know that this project is fully funded and is not a tax measure. WES is simply asking the voters of Oregon City for an easement to complete the project underneath Jon Storm Park — a requirement of the city's charter.
The new outfall location will provide a better environment for fish and aquatic life and leave no permanent impact to Jon Storm Park. Furthermore, if passed, WES will provide additional resources to the city of Oregon City to fund improvements to Jon Storm and Clackamette parks. Approval of this ballot measure is a win for everyone: the environment, the fish, recreationists, the citizens of Oregon City, and the users of the Tri-City Water Resource Recovery Facility (which is also used by the households, schools and businesses in Oregon City).
America's infrastructure is in trouble. Every four years since 1998, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has issued a Report Card on America's infrastructure, covering 16 categories. The nation's cumulative grade has never risen out of the D's. ASCE's 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, the Society's latest, is a D+. A D+ represents an infrastructure that is in poor condition and at risk.
Likewise, the nation's wastewater infrastructure also got a dismal a D+. ASCE and the Value of Water's 2020 report on the Economic Benefits of Investing in Water and Wastewater Infrastructure determined that the U.S. had an investment gap of $81 billion in 2019 alone.
Further, this underinvestment is causing our water and wastewater infrastructure to further degrade, resulting in a lost of 636,000 jobs annually and $2.9 trillion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2039. As water infrastructure deteriorates, costs incurred by American households due to water and wastewater failures will be seven times higher in 20 years than they are today. But the future does not have to look this bleak. By meeting our water and wastewater needs over the next 20 years, the national economy will gain $4.5 trillion in GDP, business sales would exceed $5.6 trillion, and nearly 800,000 new jobs would be created.
WES sees this time as an opportunity and is taking a hold of it. They are investing in the wastewater facilities serving Oregon City, West Linn, Gladstone, Happy Valley, Johnson City, Milwaukie and much of unincorporated Clackamas County. The new outfall is just one example. WES is making sure our wastewater system does not follow the path occurring nationally. We simply cannot afford to do so.
So, to prevent our businesses from seeing financial losses and to prevent our citizens from seeing a degradation in quality of life and to protect our environment, vote yes for ballot measure 3-562 on Nov. 3. Do it for your own public health, safety and welfare.
Greg DiLoreto, P.E., P.L.S., is a past president of the American Society of Civil Engineers, chair emeritus for the ASCE Committee on America's Infrastructure and vice-chair of the WES Citizen Advisory Committee.
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