Draft study indicates future need for new Wallowa Lake water source

Jess Holt of Anderson, Perry and Associates engineering firm points to a Wallowa Lake water distribution map during a draft study report before the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners Monday. Photo by Elane Dickenson

The report on a draft Wallowa Lake Water and Wastewater Study delivered by engineer Jess Holt of Anderson, Perry and Associates of La Grande was received with less than enthusiasm by the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners at its Monday meeting.

While Holt said that the Wallowa Lake County Service District wastewater system capacity will be adequate for next 20 years, he pointed to expensive improvements needed for water supply, storage and distribution requirements by 2022, according to the study. The total estimated cost of the recommended projects totals over $1.3 million.

"I'm disappointed in the water side of the study, perhaps because of the news you bring," said commissioner Ben Boswell. However, he noted that since the Wallowa Lake basin won't hit its 20 year peak overnight, he would have liked to see the project recommendations phased in over 20 years. "It seems like we're looking at a Cadallac system on a Chevrolet budget," he said.

Board chair Mike Hayward agreed, saying that while he enjoyed reading a lot of the information in the study, he wasn't sure they would ever be able to use it. "This is a lot bigger decision than the three of us can make," he said, suggesting getting together with system users to discuss options and level of service desired. "We're going to need a big pile of money," Hayward said, noting that the bonds to pay off the system constructed in 1988-89 won't even be paid off through district property tax assessments until 2009. In addition to the property tax, property owners hooked on to the sewer or water system, or both, are charged flat montly user fees. At present there are 433 sewer users and 313 water users.

According to figures in the study, the 2002 equivalent population on an average summer day in the Wallowa Lake service area is 1,062 and on a peak day it is 1,776. In the year 2022 it is projected to be 1,367 on an average day and 2,405 on a peak day.

The total average peak daily water flow in 2002 was 560 gallons per minute, with a maximum of 760 gpm available, and an additional 300 gpm recommended; in 2022 the flow requirement will be 945 gpm with an additional 500 gpm recommended in the draft study. With 300,000 gallons of storage capacity existing now, the study recommends 1,082,100 gallons now, including 600,000 gallons for fire reserve, and 1,354,900 by 2022.

Emphasizing that the study is only a draft and that the priorities listed can easily be changed by the board, Holt named recommendated projects as they were prioritized in the study:

- Secure state park springs water right (a required technicality previously overlooked).

- Submit to Water Resource Department (WRD) Claim of Beneficial Use for Chief Joseph Spring and Well No. 1 (to be completed as part of study).

- Submit application to appropriate groundwater to WRD (required in order to develop additional supply).

- Develop new well and pump station (estimated cost $192,000).

- Distribution system piping improvements (estimated cost $330,000).

- Provide emergency generator for Well No. 1. Since the system supply is now pumped, an emergency back up in case of power failure is needed (estimated cost $50,000).

- New reservoir, to provide recommended storage volume for fire protection and emergency reserve (estimated cost $600,000).

- Install water meters to promote water conservation and probably required by WSD and funding agencies (estimated cost $170,000 to $214,000).

In discussion, it was noted that perhaps unlimited water would not always be available on demand, and other cities and water providers often impose rationing in the summer months, especially for irrigation. The need for conservation of water raised the controversial question of water meters.

Hayward questioned about where the district's responsibility lays in terms of fire protection, noting that perhaps the district shouldn't have to foot the entire bill to insure adequate water storage for fire fighting. He suggested that there might be public funding possibilities available for fire protection.

No action was taken concerning the draft water and wastewater study, but the commissioners gave no indication they are ready to immediately try to find $1.3 million for water improvements at Wallowa Lake.

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