TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - John Goodrich, a Tigards utility manager, shows off the citys new Bonita Road pump station on Milton Court. Every drop of drinking water passes through this facility before heading to Tigard area residents.

Correction appended

From the outside, the one-story building on Southwest Milton Court doesn’t look like much.

There’s no obvious main entrance, no sign welcoming visitors. The brick and cement exterior gives no hint to what might be inside.

But standing inside, John Goodrich is all smiles as he looks at the large blue pipe that runs through the middle of the room.

This is where the magic happens.

“This is exciting stuff for us,” said Goodrich, a Tigard utility manager in charge of the city’s water supply.

The Bonita pump station wrapped up construction this month. The building is responsible for pumping the city’s water supply to more than 60,000 customers across the area.

Admittedly, it’s an unusual thing to get excited about, but completion of the building is the culmination of a near decade’s-worth of planning and construction for the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership, which has been slowly chugging toward completion since 2008.

The city won’t fully switch to Lake Oswego-Tigard water until July 1, but the city announced this week that a small handful of homes on Bull Mountain will start using Lake Oswego-Tigard water as early as this week.

“We want to slowly introduce that water into Bull Mountain,” Goodrich said.

Tigard supplies water to more than 60,000 customers across King City, Durham, Bull Mountain and much of Tigard west of Highway 217. The rest of Tigard’s residents receive their water from the Tualatin Valley Water District.

Goodrich said that about 218 customers in the Bull Mountain area will start receiving Lake Oswego water this week, and more customers will be slowly added until the system officially goes live next summer.

“We’ll slowly add more on an incremental basis,” he said.

By January, about 5,000 homes in Bull Mountain will be on the new water system. By July, every drop of water in the city will come through this building. The pumps are expected to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the next forty years.

“It’s a major component to what we’re doing,” Goodrich said. “It has to be operational every day.”

Home stretch

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - About 218 Bull Mountain residents will be switched over to the new Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership water this week. Others will be phased in through July 2016.It’s taken years to get to this phase, Goodrich said.

Without access to water of its own, the city of Tigard has relied on buying water from other cities, such as Portland and Lake Oswego, for decades.

That changed in 2008 when Tigard and Lake Oswego agreed to join forces on a new water system for both cities. Lake Oswego would provide the infrastructure and Tigard would pay the lion’s share in upgrading the system to serve both cities.

It’s the largest public infrastructure project in Tigard’s history, and has proven to be controversial as water bills rose in both cities to pay for the project. West Linn residents objected loudly to years of construction at Lake Oswego’s water treatment plant in their city. Construction on that facility has been delayed but is expected to finish construction enough by next spring to provide water to both cities.

“We’re excited,” Goodrich said. “We’re in the home stretch.

But there’s one major hurdle still to cross — Portland environmental group WaterWatch’s lawsuit against the project which claims that it threatens fish in the Clackamas River, where Lake Oswego draws its water.

A judge sided with WaterWatch on key arguments late last year, saying that the state’s decision to allow Lake Oswego and Tigard to draw millions of gallons from the Clackamas River wasn’t supported by science.

The Oregon Water Resources Department has been asked to issue more rigorous findings supporting its decision. No timeline has been announced for when those findings will be released.

Dennis Koellermeier, Tigard’s representative to the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership, said that the city is moving forward with construction and testing while it waits for OWRD.

“We can’t wait around,” Koellermeier told The Times on Monday. “We’ve spent 12 years waiting for the state on this issue. We have an investment that we need to use.”

Koellermeier said that contingency plans are in place in the event that OWRD hasn’t released its report before the July 2016.

“We continue to hear that (OWRD) understands our timeline and that they are prepared to have it done in time to be pumping water without any questions by next spring,” Koellermeier said.

A lot of water

Back at Bonita Road, Goodrich said that most residents won’t notice a difference between the water they’ve drank for years and the new water.

“We know people aren’t going to call just to say that this is great water,” Goodrich said. “That’s just not how it works. But we are interested if people have a problem or a question about their water quality and want to know what’s going on.”

Any customer who notices changes in the quality of their tap water is encouraged to call the city’s Public Works department at 503-718-2591.

The three massive pumps at the Bonita station are able to pump about 16 million gallons of water per day. That’s more than enough to handle Tigard’s needs for years to come, Goodrich said.

“That’s more than 10,000 gallons of water a minute,” he said. “It’s a lot of water.”

And because populations continue to increase in Tigard, the station was built with room to grow.

“We’re talking about adding tens of thousands of people to the system before we have to expand,” he said.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to better reflect the construction in West Linn and the amount of water that can the Bonita pump station can provide. The station can deliver 16 million gallons of water per day, not 60 as previously stated.

By Geoff Pursinger
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