PROJECT ON SCHEDULE

August 01, 2002 11:00 pm
RAISING THE RIM: Gary Combs of R&G Excavating of Scio operates a 235 Trackhoe to spread rocks quarried from Ladd Canyon along the rim of one of the existing dikes at La Grande's wastewater treatment plant. As part of the improvement plan the dike is being raised two feet to increase water capacity. Ten new aerator pillars have been added. (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).
RAISING THE RIM: Gary Combs of R&G Excavating of Scio operates a 235 Trackhoe to spread rocks quarried from Ladd Canyon along the rim of one of the existing dikes at La Grande's wastewater treatment plant. As part of the improvement plan the dike is being raised two feet to increase water capacity. Ten new aerator pillars have been added. (The Observer/LAURA MACKIE-HANCOCK).

By Ray Linker

Observer Staff Writer

"It will be a valuable asset to the city for many years to come and is environmentally friendly," La Grande Public Works Director Dan Chevalier said about the upgrade to the city's wastewater treatment system.

The work, which has been under way for a year between La Grande and Hot Lake, will result in using treated wastewater to enhance wildlife and fish habitat in the Ladd Marsh/Hot Lake area.

The project is on time for completion by the end of the year and will cost about $10 million. When first designed, the estimate was for a cost of $14 million, but some bids came in lower than expected.

Construction on the project started in June 2001 after several months of planning. It is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 31, said Glen Hogue, the city's sewer superintendent.

The city council, designers and engineers from Anderson Perry and Associates and various city staff members toured the project recently and came away pleased, Chevalier said.

The improvements include running a 36-inch PVC pipe 3 miles from the treatment plant just off Interstate 84 to holding ponds across Highway 203 and near Peach Road. The updated wastewater treatment system is expected to serve the city until it reaches a population of 25,000.

The system now serves about 14,000, he said.

The city was required to make improvements in the antiquated, leaking wastewater collection system and holding lagoons near the freeway to meet Department of Environmental Quality standards. Those include meeting more stringent standards on discharges into Catherine Creek, which flows into the Grande Ronde River.

R&G Excavating Inc. of Scio won the $5.2 million bid to do Phase 1 of the project, which included the existing wastewater treatment plant, some work at the city property near Hot Lake, putting in the pipe from the plant's lagoon to the wetlands, and building the new wetlands.

That company, which started work in June 2001, has finished 75 percent of the job, Hogue said.

Mike Becker is doing Phase 2 for $1.7 million. The company just started its work and is about 20 percent finished. The work includes a lot of mechanical improvements, replacing and updating some 20-year-old electrical equipment and putting in three small buildings.

Chevalier said Ducks Unlimited will start some work in September.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is another partner in the project in providing wildlife habitat in the area off Peach Road. ODFW will manage that section.

The project was funded from about $3 million in capital improvement reserve funds set aside over the years by the city, from $1 million of city residents' sewer fees, and from grants and loans. One loan was for $2.9 million from the state Department of Environmental Quality. Island City is contributing to the project.