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Commissioner joins Hardesty in saying she is not committed to the project authorized by the City Council in 2017.

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Bull Run Reservoir is the primary source for much of the water in the Portland region.The fate of the filtration plant being planned near Boring to remove contaminants from Bull Run water is suddenly looking shaky.

Two of the four City Council members considering the project being undertaken by the Portland Water Bureau have now expressed concerns about it. Commissioner Chloe Eudaly joined Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty in saying she was not yet committed to it on Wednesday, March 15.

Eudaly and Hardesty made their comments during a council vote on selling $745 million in revenue bonds to qualify for low-interest federal funding for the project, which is currently estimated at $820 million. Although the council unanimously authorized the sale to potentially save money on the project, Eudaly said she needed to be briefed on it and any alternatives. One is a lower-cost plant that would treat the water with UV light.

Hardesty made similar remarks when the council first discussed the bonds last Wednesday and repeated them again, saying she is worried about how much it will raise water rates, especially the cost increase prompts smaller customers to develop their own water sources.

Eudaly and Hardesty were not on the council when it authorized the bureau to pursue the project. Commissioner Nick Fish, who was in charge of the bureau at the time, has since died and the remainder of his term is up for election at the May 19 primary. Only Mayor Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Amanda Fritz voted for the filtration plant, and Fritz is retiring from the council at the end of the year.

At the time, the Filtration Plant was estimated at $500 million and the UV plant was estimated at $105 million, based on earlier plans prepared in 2012. Both were predicted to increae over time.

The plant is opposed by the ratepayer activists activists who have previously sued Portland for misspending water and sewer funds, and by residents living in the largely rural area where it would be built. They claim it is not needed, too expensive, and would damage the environment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Oregon Health Authority are requiring the city to remove potentially deadly cryptosporidium from Bull Run water. In 2017, the council has agreed to solve the problem by 2027. It chose to pursue a filtration plant as opposed to less expensive options because such a facility also can remove other contaminants from the water, including silt and ash if there is a fire in the Bull Run Watershed.

The bond sale will qualify the city for a federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan that would lock in low U.S. Treasury interest rates. They would also help finance a $20 million Corrosion Control Facility previously approved by the council to reduce lead entering drinking water from homes and buildings plumbed between 1970 and 1985. Altogether, the federal financing will save the city $350 million in debt payments after the completion of the projects.

The city estimates construction of the Bull Run Treatment Projects will create 7,500 direct construction jobs. Contracts related to the projects ensure contractors are paying prevailing wage rates and maximizing opportunities for disadvantaged, minority-owned, women-owned, emerging small businesses, and Service Disabled Veterans Business Enterprise contractors and subcontractors.


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