Wallowa gets $3.58 million to fix water system

By By Bill Rautenstrauch The Observer August 07, 2012 10:48 am

The City of Wallowa will implement sweeping changes to its water system, thanks to a $3,588,000 Community Development Block Grant from the state of Oregon.

The money will enable the city to do a system rebuild, including improvements to the existing well, construction of a new well and water pump station site, installation of a new pressure reducing valve station, construction of a new reservoir, replacement of old water lines and installation of new water meters.

The project was designed by Anderson-Perry and Associates of La Grande, with Engineer Troy Baker in charge. The grant is the largest of six recently awarded to Oregon communities by the Oregon Business Development Department’s Infrastructure Finance Authority.

“The beauty of this is, normally there’s a cap on these awards and recently it’s been $2 million for design and construction. In Wallowa’s case, they were granted waivers,” Baker said.

Earlier, the city applied to the OBDD for $323,000 for design and environmental services. La Grande-based Anderson-Perry, a company that works on infrastructure projects in cities throughout Eastern Oregon and Southern Oregon and Southeastern Washington, updated a master plan that had been formulated in 2002.

“The city didn’t implement any of the improvements in the 2002 plan, and the council decided to have us prepare an update,” Baker said. “These were improvements we felt they needed to make for the reliability of their system.”

Baker added that the city had to apply to the Water Resources Committee for an extension of a deadline to perfect the water right. With the extension came certain conditions.

“They got the extension, but they have to do  water management and a conservation plan. As part of that plan, they are required to meter,” Baker said. He said the existing water meters were installed in the 1980s and have not been utilized.

As for wells, Baker said the city only has one that’s adequate at present. There is a back-up, located near the old Bates Mill site, but it isn’t suitable to supply the city with water if the water system goes down.

“The city decided they need a reliable back-up source. That was one of the things that was proposed in the 2002 plan,” Baker said.

Baker added that old steel pipes underground will be replaced, and that a new reservoir adjacent to the current one will improve the city’s water storage capabilities. He said adding more storage will help ensure there will be enough water on hand for fire protection.

Baker said he isn’t sure at this point when construction of the new system will begin. He said release of grant funds will take about four months. Before the project starts, the city will need to hire a grant administrator and conduct an environmental review.

Community Development Block Grants assist rural communities with funding for important projects. The OBDD program serves non-metropolitan cities and counties in Oregon with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Including the Wallowa grant, the program awarded almost $4 million in the second quarter of 2012. Halfway in Baker County was among the communities receiving awards, $43,000 for an update of its plan to improve wastewater facilities.