The City of Lake Oswego and City of Portland are currently in negotiations over how to formulate a new intergovernmental agreement regarding the operation and ownership of a potentially repaired or replaced Tryon Creek Wastewater Plant in Lake Oswego's Foothills District.
Two of the major factors yet to be determined are how and when Lake Oswego would take over the upgraded or replaced facility, as well as the percentage of compensation the City would pay to Portland for taking ownership of the plant.
A committee organized by LO Public Works and led by Deputy City Manager Anthony Hooper was formed earlier this year to look at the feasibility of either upgrading or replacing the 55-year-old wastewater plant with a new type of treatment technology known as membrane bioreactor (MBR). The technology has the potential to reduce the plant's footprint from 13.5 to 3.5 acres, which could free nearly 10 acres of prime real estate for the redevelopment of the Foothills area — currently a major goal for the City.
Last year the City Council received a proposal from PERC Water Corporation of Costa Mesa, California, and used that as a jumping off point to begin exploring options to update the plant.
The facility was built in 1965 to serve Lake Oswego and parts of Southwest Portland. While it's been maintained properly, the current technology doesn't have the capacity to meet environmental standards for effluent discharged to the Willamette River which are periodically updated by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
The facility was also identified in a report by Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) as needing an approximately $130 million investment to upgrade or replace, a cost that would be split 50/50 under the current agreement that has the City of Portland owning and operating the plant with Lake Oswego paying to take its wastewater.
Following a request for qualifications (RFQ) process, the City Council approved in May the hiring of the law firm Hawkins Delafield and Wood to help Hooper and the project committee draft request for proposal (RFP) documents to send out to three different teams identified by the committee as being qualified to complete the project. The RFPs asked the teams to submit 10 percent design specifications for any type of repair or replace project they see fit — not necessarily just the MBR technology. Hooper originally hoped to have that RFP sent out this month, but first Portland and Lake Oswego agreed to hammer out details of a new intergovernmental agreement.
"Having this IGA in place and the terms agreed upon before we go out to RFP is a critical component moving forward," Hooper told The Review. "We're also running numbers to make sure there is no (wastewater) change as a part of this project. We want to make sure everything pencils out."
Some of the major benefits of this project would be not only opening up nearly 10 acres of land for redevelopment, but also improving the quality of effluent released to the Willamette River and potentially taking the facility underground which could greatly improve the control of odor released by the plant, according to Hooper.
Negotiations with the City of Portland and Portland BES have gone smoothly so far, according to Hopper, but he and the project committee believe it's best to wait for the new city manager — Martha Bennett, who joins the city staff Aug. 19 — to come on board before finishing discussions over the new IGA.
Hooper said that while the MBR technology is intriguing for its potential to greatly reduce the footprint of the Tryon Creek Wastewater facility, they're not precluding themselves to one technology and are willing to hear any proposal that might come forth once the RFP process is initiated. The public works department is currently researching several different variations of new wastewater treatment technologies in order to be able to make the most informed recommendation as possible to the City Council.
Once Bennett takes the helm as city manager, Hooper and the project committee will bring her up to speed and seek her input on how to best formulate the new IGA between the two cities and hopefully sign a new agreement soon to begin the RFP process and get the project rolling whether it is to repair or replace.
Portland BES Spokesperson Diane Dulken told The Review that the City of Portland is fully supportive of Lake Oswego moving forward on this project and is committed to working with them to figure out the details of the IGA.
"Our interest is reliable sewer service to our customers and a system that protects our environment and the Willamette River," Dulken said. "That's the direction Lake Oswego is moving."
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