PRAIRIE CITY — After upward of two years of working out the details, Prairie City’s Faiman Springs water project is expected to break ground next month.

An emergency procurement due to the recent drought allowed the city to bypass a formal bid process, according to Prairie City Mayor Jim Hamsher.

Hamsher said the project would move forward with Winegar Excavation, a Prairie City-based contractor, and other subcontractors starting Dec. 1, adding he expects the project will be completed by late spring or early summer.

“That is my hope,” Hamsher said.

The project will tie an existing well near the Faiman Springs site into the current city water system, Hamsher said. The project includes constructing a pump station and laying between 8,000 and 9,000 feet of piping.

Prairie City has suffered from chronic water shortages for years, with drought conditions and low winter snowpacks cutting into the city’s water supply. In 2018, Hamsher declared a water emergency, implementing water use restrictions and arranging to truck supplemental water into town.

The completion of the project will provide insurance for the Prairie City water supply should the region see another lower-than-average snowpack this year, Hamsher noted.

Hamsher said the project would not affect people’s water bills. The only change, he said, would be that the city would not have to restrict water use.

Prairie City received a $550,000 grant and a 30-year, $950,000 loan at 1.7% interest from Business Oregon to develop the Faiman Springs well site, Hamsher said. The city was also awarded a $1 million grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program to offset the state loan and the cost of hauling water during the city’s water emergency in 2018.

The city initiated a plan to complete a water project using wells drilled by the city in 2005, using grants and loans to cover the cost. The city raised the monthly water rate by $8 to qualify for the loans.

In a pump test, the Faiman Springs well produced roughly 460 gallons of water a minute, Hamsher said. The town needs around 350 gallons a minute at peak demand.

The city’s current wells produce only slightly more than that under optimal conditions, but when the water table drops, they can’t keep pace with demand.

For instance, Hamsher said, the No. 2 well currently produces around 65 gallons a minute, while well No. 3 is at approximately 100 gallons a minute.

The infiltration galleries currently produce roughly 200 gallons a minute due to increasing groundwater levels, which, Hamsher noted, is a significant improvement.

This year, during Grant County’s hottest and driest summer in over a century, Prairie City saw the capacity of its water system drop to just 10 to 20 gallons a minute.

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