City officially announces plan to shut down, rebuild reservoirs

PORTLAND, Ore. - The City of Portland on Monday officially announced plans to shut down the city's uncovered reservoirs and rebuild others in compliance with public health requirements.

The Environmental Protection Agency rule prohibits using uncovered reservoirs to store finished drinking water to reduce the risk of exposure to contaminants.

Since 2006, the city has appealed on the state and federal levels for more time to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's requirements to cover its open reservoirs, but last month the Oregon Health Authority rejected the most recent request.

Mayor Charlie Hales' spokesman Dana Haynes on Saturday told KATU that time has simply run out. They were in a losing battle and decisions had to be made, Haynes said.

"It's time to say this is the law of the land," Haynes said Monday. "It's time to move forward."

The city announced that the Mount Tabor reservoirs will be shut down after new underground reservoirs at Powell Butte and Kelly Butte are complete. The estimated time of completion is Dec. 31, 2015.

One of the city's Washington Park reservoirs will be buried and covered with a reflecting pool. The other will be shut down.

"We are looking to the community to help us preserve these historic structures, and will conduct an inclusive public process to plan the future of our world-class parks," a news release from the mayor's office and city commissioners said. "Recognizing the impact that compliance will have on rates, we will heighten scrutiny of all capital projects and contracts to keep rate increases as low as possible."

Some neighborhood groups have been opposed to covering the reservoirs for a long time, but they didn't think the fight was over. Floy Jones, a member of the group Friends of the Reservoirs, told KATU she believes the city is moving forward without including people who care most about the reservoirs.

"A large number of organizations have been advocating for maintaining the functionality of these reservoirs for a very long time. And we should've been engaged in those discussions for the past three weeks," Jones said.

"Politicians have thrown in the towel. I can guarantee you the people have not thrown in the towel."