Public meeting tackles water project issue

Written by Katy Nesbitt, The Observer November 15, 2013 07:56 am

Enterprise water improvement project to address city’s infrastructure shortcomings

ENTERPRISE — The Enterprise City Council hosted two public meetings on Wednesday at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds’ Cloverleaf Hall to respond to questions related to the city’s plan for improving the city’s water system.

City Administrator Michele Young said the council invited representatives from partnering agencies and a private contractor to better explain the proposed project and its costs.

William Goss of the Oregon Health Authority said when the city completed its master water plan, it anticipated future needs such as water sources, storage facilities, reservoirs, distribution piping and financial opportunities.

“The master plan lists the alternatives so the city has good planning documents,” Goss said. “The projects are done in consultation with the city along the way. Once the plan is in a final draft, it is sent to Oregon Health Authority to see if it meets criteria.”

Goss said the consulting engineer conducted computer modeling of the distribution areas. Some of the homes at higher elevation in Enterprise are below 20 pounds per square inch of pressure, which is below the state regulation.

“The city’s water system must maintain a minimum of 20 pounds per square inch for fire situations. Also, if the pressure drops really low there’s a chance that bad, dirty water can be drawn into the piping, so that pressure is required,” Goss said.

Tawni Bean, of the Infrastructure Finance Authority, the funding agency through which the city is trying to secure a loan, said after a city develops a master water plan they can attend a “one-stop” meeting where different communities come and find out what state and federal funding is available. The financing the city is applying is a $4.8 million loan. With a 1.25 percent interest loan and a $750,000 grant, the city will pay just over $5.5 million over 30 years.

City Councilor Laura Miller said the city chose to pursue the project alternative that completes the most work at once, while securing what the council sees as the best funding opportunity.

“This alternative will fix all the deficiencies,” Miller said. “The city council encouraged a public process through meetings, mailings and we’ve encouraged dialogue and one-on-one.”

Miller said the council is concerned about having adequate fire protection through increased water pressure, storage and replacing and adding more hydrants.

“The water reservoir is old. We’d be in a bind with only water in our lines to supply water to everyone,” Miller said. “If we don’t maintain our water system now, we won’t have it in the future. We want to maintain it, be good stewards and have a lasting system.”

Troy Baker of Anderson Perry and Associates, a La Grande engineering firm, said the main deficiencies in the system are flow distribution and fire protection. 

“There are a lot of dead-end lines and small diameter lines preventing circulation,” Baker said.

He said the phasing approach, as opposed to doing all the work in one project, would cost more in the long run. If the city does nothing, the state can take the city to court and force the city to take action.

City Engineer Ralph Swinehart said one problem identified with the water system was the power source for the well. Baker said part of the project would be to provide a standby power source.  

Young said the city council is now awaiting an application to be sent to them for the funding sought from the Infrastructure Finance Authority.

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