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Water study: Cities join for grant

By Don Murtha

The cities of Mount Angel and Silverton are looking to see if aquifers could provide millions of gallons of water storage for long-term availability.

The cities have joined forces to apply for a grant from the Oregon Water Resources Department to conduct a feasibility study for an Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) system. An ASR could be central to a regional water system providing Mount Angel and Silverton with an ample supply of high-quality drinking water into the distant future.

At separate meetings on April 7, the Mount Angel and Silverton city councils voted unanimously to apply for the grant. The cost of the project is $35,000. Silverton pay $11,700 and Mount Angel will pay $5,800. The grant will cover the remainder.

A resolution adopted by the Mount Angel City Council said evaluation of the geology indicates prospects are good for a successful ASR for both cities.

The resolution said Mount Angel’s municipal water is commonly known to have a high mineral content in its ground water which has long been criticized for its undesirable taste and effect on the domestic infrastructure and household appliances and plumbing.

The city of Silverton gets its water from Abiqua Creek and Silverton Reservoir,

Silverton City Councilor Scott Walker addressed the Mount Angel City Council and noted the Mount Angel’s water levels are declining. He said the ground under the Silverton – Mount Angel area could hold “millions of gallons” of fresh water.

“If there is any difficulty, I personally would write a check to cover the difference,” Walker said.“We are put on this Earth to do good work and this is good work.”

Mount Angel currently draws its water from three pumps, numbered five, six and seven. Two of the three pumps are satisfactory, Public Works Director Dan Bernt said.

“If you’re looking at the long term, wells six and seven will be our only source,” he said. “In Number Five there is almost no water there.”

Mount Angel City Administrator Eileen Stein said the city may be pumping out of a hole and if that is so the expectations for the long-term water supply are limited.

“We don’t know what’s going on underground and depending on what’s there, we could dry up,” Stein said. “But if we are pumping from an underground alluvial stream fed by run off then whoopee.”

The reason the feasibility study is important is because the city needs to look for future sources of water, she added.

Silverton City Manager Bob Willoughby said the Silverton reservoir will remain the city’s primary source of water into the future, but at some time the city might need an addition source.

Willoughby has met with Jeff Barry of Ground Water Solutions. Barry has done a preliminary study of the geology of the area and said his findings indicate prospects are good for the proposal.

“Indications are that the basalt formations at the right depth will hold a lot of water,” Willoughby said. “This is a very economical way to store large volumes of water.”

The Silverton council also sees this proposal as an opportunity to work with a neighbor.

Mount Angel City Councilor Pete Wall said he thinks it would be short-sighted if the council didn’t look at new water sources, later adding a reliable source of water in volume would make Mount Angel more attractive to businesses, especially those that require lots of water.

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