By Midge Pierce
As expected, Portland City Council decommissioned the Mt. Tabor reservoirs at its meeting August 19.
Disconnection construction is slated to begin before year’s end to comply with federal regulations to cover open-air reservoirs or remove them from service as potable water supplies. The deadline to sever the drinking water pipes is December 15.
Later on August 19, the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association meeting seemed subdued after nearly two years of often bitter wrangling with the Portland Water Bureau.
First, the MTNA fought to preserve the open-air reservoirs and, as it became clear that was not possible, to salvage the historic structures, protect the park from construction damage and minimize loss of significant trees.
These goals were met in an 11th hour compromise a neighborhood reservoir task force hammered out with the Water Bureau at the Council’s request.
Among the major accomplishments is a promise to keep the basins filled with water at historic levels, despite the fact they will no longer supply drinking water. An earlier agreement ensured that disconnection could be reversible if the federal closure mandate is rescinded.
MTNA members believe the compromise is a victory for all citizens of Portland and the metro area who use and value park for its grandeur, history and beloved events like last month’s PDX Soapbox Derby.
For citizens in a citywide survey who overwhelmingly expressed desire to preserve the historic basins and their view corridors, more good news was announced at the meeting. The massive lower reservoir six, an often empty eyesore in recent years, is slated to be repaired and refilled by mid October.
The work may be done internally, which could result in significant cost savings. Overall, the initial, most critical repairs on the structures are slated at $4 million, less than half what was originally estimated for needs identified years ago and never executed. More monies may be forthcoming if budgets allow and cost efficiencies are met.
For now, more meetings are soon to begin between the reservoir task force and PWB officials to ensure that promises are kept. The water bureau has pledged to work with the neighborhood to monitor construction, prioritize projects and provide open channels of communication and notification to the neighborhood association of any construction plan changes.
A second set of meetings will address compliance with an historic structures report issued in 2009. Under terms of the compromise,, the water bureau is required to provide maintenance and structural repairs that have been deferred since the report identified needs for the basins listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Commissioner Nick Fish appointed PWB chief engineer Michael Stuhr as the new Director of the Portland Water Bureau.