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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.