Editor’s Note: In response to the article “Taking Another Look at Filtration” the June edition of The Southeast Examiner, the Portland Water Bureau (PWB) identified inaccuracies in some of the statements. These are explained here. Nancy Tannler (NT) is the reporter and Jaymee Cuti (JC) is PWB Information Officer.
NT: At a recent City Council hearing about the project Commissioners Jo Ann Hardesty and Chloe Eudaly both deferred approval.
JC: They voted to approve the WIFIA ordinance.
NT: The UV disinfection facility would cost $105 million.
JC: Estimates presented to City Council in 2017 were $105M for UV, based on plans prepared in 2012 that would need to be revised. UV is a less expensive but the 2 percent inflation rate is speculation. Construction costs change at a different rate than inflation, and the $112M estimate is not accurate.
NT: Jeff Knapp has followed this issue and his observations went from a curious to a concerned citizen. Doing the math on the project, the average citizen will be paying $430 more a year for water. That’s on top of the recent 8.7 percent increase we recently incurred.
JC: You are looking at the projected rate increase, which we update each year through a forecasting process. Portland City Council adopted 6.5 percent rate increase for FY 2020-21.
NT: “At the present time,” Courter said, “there are no algae species in Bull Run, and the Columbia South Shore wells are already in place for any turbidity.” Filtration is necessary where the systems are compromised.
JC: A blend of groundwater and Bull Run water meet summer demands, not groundwater alone. There are algae species in the Bull Run.
NT: Another controversy in this issue is the promise that the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) – a long-term, low-cost supplemental loan from the EPA, would help defer costs. The two percent interest is low but calculating that on a $554 million loan makes this project even more expensive than the $750 million to $1 billion that is being estimated now.
JC: Projects costs are paid as incurred, not deferred. Project costs are paid either with WIFIA funding, water sales revenues or proceeds from water revenue bonds. However, loan repayments on the WIFIA loan can start five years after project completion.
NT: Currently PWB has put in an application for the WIFIA loan but they have not submitted all the necessary documents required by the EPA to complete the loan application.
JC: PWB has submitted the full application, providing all information required for the application. EPA asked for additional information to augment the application.
NT: Since it isn’t complete, Courter said the WIFIA loan could also be used for the less expensive ozone/ultraviolet treatment plant. It would just require a new application.
JC: We have no guarantee that we would be invited, that they would approve the application, or even if the WIFIA Loan program will be extended another year and exist at all in the future.