Collaboration: Water resource interests pooled

December 2015 Posted in News

By Kristine Thomas

The city of Silverton needs to replace its aging water treatment plant. The city of Mt. Angel wants to improve the quality and taste of the water it provides its residents. The East Valley Water District has concerns on how it will water its crops and how to store water to use in the summer months.

The question is, can the three groups – along with other partners – find a solution to meet all their needs? That’s what they are working to find out.

Representatives from cities of Silverton and Mt. Angel, the East Valley Water District, Oregon Water Resources Council, Pudding River Watershed Council and Clackamas County Soil and Water Conservation District met on Nov. 16 to learn about placed-based integrated water resources planning. The group discussed inviting the cities of Aurora, Woodburn and Hubbard to join in, as well as Clackamas and Marion county commissioners.

The meeting to discuss collaboration on future water supply development and management was facilitated by Terry Buchholz of Integrated Water Solutions. It’s goal was to determine if there was enough interest to submit a letter of intent collaborate to the OWRC in December.

“We can’t do it by ourselves,” EVWD board member Duane Eder said. “We are looking to partner.”

“The cost of the infrastructure is what brings us to the table,” Silverton City Manager Bob Willoughby said.

Harmony Burright with the OWRC explained place-based integrated water resources planning helps Oregon communities plan for current and future water needs. The state plans to award $750,000 in grants to three or four water basins to conduct studies.

“Investments in collaborative planning will lead to better coordination between different water interests and will provide pathways for partners to identify actionable solutions to water challenges,” an OWRC document states.

“Up-front planning can help communities prioritize needs and assemble the necessary support and resources to fund and implement water projects.”

Pudding River Watershed Council Coordinator Anna Rankin is working with Buchholz on the letter of intent.

“Each individual has a part to play in protecting water resources,” Rankin said. “The development of an area plan for water resources is important because water is a shared natural resource. Since there are many different demands, a leadership group has to be developed to make informed decisions regarding integrated water resource management.”

Lauren Reese, who works for Integrated Water Solutions which has the EVWD as one of its clients, said the EVWD unanimously voted at its board meeting on Nov. 16 to participate and support the collaboration process.

“It’s really encouraging that stakeholders with diverse interests and needs are willing to participate in a collaborative process for the Pudding River,” Reese said. “It is even more encouraging that each of the parties committed to a substantial amount of work and coordination in the next three weeks to ensure a letter of intent makes it to OWRC by the Dec. 7 deadline.

“Each member seems very interested in ensuring the success of the potential collaborative process,” Reese added.

Mt. Angel City Manager Eileen Stein said the first task is to complete the letter of interest.

“The objective of the overall study would be to examine the needs of water users in the basin (which include) municipal, irrigation and environmental, i.e. habitat) and determine what’s needed to address these needs, and in what coordinated and collaborative fashion,” Stein said.

She added it’s important all the different parties in the Pudding River Watershed Basin work together because the aquifers in the basin are all related.

“The actions by a water user in one part of the basin can impact a water user in another part of the basin,” Stein said.

The letter being drafted, she said, is a first step to indicate a grant application from the parties may be forthcoming. Grant applications are due in January.

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