ashland.news
July 24, 2024

Planning Commission to review new water treatment plant plans at special meeting Tuesday

An illustration shows what the main structure at the planned new Ashland water treatment plant would look like.
April 24, 2023

Proposed new plant out of flood plain would replace 75-year-old facility on Ashland Creek

By Craig Breon for Ashland.news

For more than 20 years, Ashland has considered the need to build a new water treatment plant for the city. The Ashland Planning Commission will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 25, to take up the final designs and location of the proposed new facility, with their recommendations then going to the City Council for final approval.

A map in a city staff report shows the location of the planned new water treatment plant just southwest of Lithia Park.
A map in a staff report shows the area of potential impact for work on the planned new water treatment plant just southwest of Lithia Park.

Ashland’s current water treatment plant — built in 1948 adjacent to Ashland Creek below Hosler Dam — suffers from potential risks of flooding, wildfire, landslides, and water quality fluctuations. According to the staff report for the new treatment plant, the old plant is “reaching the end of its useful life,” with increasing maintenance costs. The old facility lacks capacity to accommodate projected future growth and serve a high-flow need such as 2020’s Almeda Fire.

The new treatment plant is designed for an initial capacity of 7 million gallons a day (MGD), with expansion capacity to 9 MGD. This is intended to serve community needs for 100 years.

The new plant would be located high in the Ashland Creek watershed, well above the floodplain, at 1111 Granite St. The 80-acre site is currently vacant, with some previous mining, grading and dumping of construction materials visible in an open clearing amidst otherwise forested slopes. Only 4.5 acres of the site would be needed for the new treatment plant. Nearly a hundred trees will be removed during construction and replaced at a 1:1 ratio, while 48 trees will be protected during construction and another 848 trees on the land will not be affected.

Public hearing Tuesday
To see the staff report for Tuesday’s Planning Commission hearing, click here. The hearing starts at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center Council Chambers at 1175 E. Main St. and can be seen via Zoom (click here) and on RVTV.
The commission will conduct a site visit of 1111 Granite St. at 4 p.m. Monday, April 24. The meeting is open to the public. For more information, click here.

Funding for the project would come initially through loans from the federal Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) and the Oregon Infrastructure Finance Authority (IFA). WIFIA is the main source, covering up to 80% of total costs. The city has already cleared initial WIFIA qualification and is poised to submit a full application.

Total cost of the project, which would be spread over several years, approaches $60 million, according to the list of capital improvement projects submitted to the City Council on April 4, with $52 million for construction and $7 million for construction administration.

The federal and state loans would then be paid off over as long as 35 years from completion of project construction. Ashland City Council has already approved the issuance of water revenue bonds for the project, a necessary step towards securing the federal funds. Those bonds would then be paid off through water system revenues.

The city has owned the new plant property since at least 1909. No previous development proposals have been considered for the site, which is zoned Woodland Residential in the city’s Comprehensive Plan.

The proposed treatment plant will require a variance from building height standards to accommodate a 48-foot water reservoir containing 850,000 gallons. In addition, the proposal asks for exceptions to certain design standards for pedestrian access and provisions meant to soften massing and visual impacts of new construction. These should prove non-controversial, as the site is remote, not intended for public access, and not visible from the nearest residences.

A detailed schematic from a city staff report shows the layout of the planned water treatment plant.

Down below the building site, where Granite Street meets Horn Creek Road and near the local swimming hole, the project includes rebuilding a crossing over Ashland Creek, removing an old culvert and installing a new culvert capable of withstanding a 100-year flooding event. As a result, after construction and remediation, visual and environmental impacts to Ashland Creek will be minimal.

Based on previous input from the Ashland City Council, Community Development Department staff and consultants incorporated additional green building elements into the treatment plant design. Most prominent of these is a 199-kilowatt solar array, costing $2 million and projected to reduce energy costs for the facility by $25,000 per year, as well as reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions. This and other provisions would allow the project to achieve a “Gold” standard ranking from the Envision Rating system, as determined by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure.

Email Ashland resident, lawyer and former environmental law instructor Craig Breon at ckbtravel@earthlink.net.

The proposed site of a new water treatment plant for the city of Ashland is on an 80-acre parcel at the south end of Granite Street, across from the swimming hole at the south end of Lithia Park. Currently unused, the site was previously a granite quarry. Craig Breon photo for Ashland.news
A map in a city staff report shows the location of the current water treatment plant, in blue circle at bottom, and the planned new site.
Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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