PORTLAND -- The Portland City Council for years has been fighting an Environmental Protection Agency plan that would cover the city's open-air reservoirs. But Mayor Charlie Hales announced Monday the city has no more options and will move forward with a plan to cover them.
Portland is one of the only cities left in the country that still hasn't capped its reservoirs. There are two uncapped reservoirs in Washington Park plus reservoirs at Mt. Tabor. The city s other reservoirs are underground.
Some residents have fought to keep the uncovered reservoirs, especially at Mt. Tabor, where they have been since the late 1800's.
It s so sad. I mean, we have good clean water, beautiful reservoirs. I hate to see that they re gonna be covered, said Annette Boswell as she walked along the reservoir.
But another Portland resident near a Washington Park reservoir said it's time for the issue to be settled.
I think it s a good decision. At some point you have to decide your resources are better used elsewhere than a legal battle and it s time to move on, said Debbie Craig.
The EPA and the state first started telling Portland to shut down or cover the open air reservoirs eight years ago, but the city kept filing for extensions as it searched for alternatives.
In February, their request for another extension was denied. Now, the mayor says the city council is done fighting.
Faced with no other legal options and with deadlines looming, the city will move forward to meet the compliance timeline, Hales said in a letter Monday morning. In approving the 2013-14 budget, we will continue moving forward on a multi-year plan for Portland s drinking water reservoirs.
Amanda Fritz was the only city commissioner who did not sign the letter.
Two new, covered 50-million gallon reservoirs are being built at Kelly Butte and Powell Butte. The work is expected to be complete by the end of 2015. When the new reservoirs are completed, the reservoir at Mt. Tabor will be disconnected.
One of the two reservoirs in Washington Park will be closed and the other one will be covered with a reflection pool, so it won't look much different.
The cost for these projects is $275 million, according to Water Bureau officials, who say it is already budgeted and will be paid for by future rate increases.
There is no cost estimate yet for turning Mt. Tabor's reservoirs into something else.
Mayor Hales said the community will be very involved in the process going forward, to decide what to do and how to pay for it.
KGW reporters Tim Gordon and Wayne Havrelly contributed to this report.