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Portland Water Bureau

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Powell Butte Reservoirs Project

  • Powell Butte Reservoir 2

    When completed, Reservoir 2 will be completely covered with topsoil and repopulated with native plants. (January 2014 photo)

  • Underground Reservoir

    The concrete floor of the reservoir is 30 inches thick and the 26 inch thick concrete roof is supported by 540 columns. (January 2014 photo)

  • Visitor's Center

    Upon completion, the Visitor's Center will showcase large doors than can enclose the space for classes or meetings, or be left open for public access to the visual displays. (January 2014 photo)

  • Maintenance Building

    To minimize the visual impact of the 5,000 square foot Maintenance Building, part of the structure was built into the ground, giving it a low profile. (January 2014 photo)

  • Park Center

    As part of stormwater management, the parking areas are water permeable, allowing rainwater to pass through the asphalt to an underlying stone bed. Water is then absorbed by underlying soil. (January 2014 photo)

  • Caretaker's House

    The House was strategically built on the hill to the southwest of the parking area to provide the caretaker with exceptional views over the entire park to enhance security. (December 2013 photo)

  • Multi-Use Trail System

    As part of the new reservoir project, many of the park’s trails have been improved, realigned, or reconnected in order to limit environmental impacts, reduce user conflicts, improve accessibility, and reduce fall-line impacts and steep grades.


March 25, 2014  

Work to connect the new 50-million gallon reservoir at Powell Butte to Portland’s drinking water distribution system is underway, and is expected to last through November 2014 at various locations in Southeast Portland.

The installation of seven underground vaults is a necessary and crucial step in connecting the new Powell Butte reservoir to the city’s water system.

To install underground vaults, contractor crews will first excavate a large hole for the vault, which will either be constructed onsite or built elsewhere and put in place. After vault construction or installation is finished – complete with a manhole cover – water connections are made and any electrical work is then performed. The final step is to cover the new vault with gravel and pave over it with asphalt. 

Vault at SE 42nd Avenue at SE Division StreetCurrently, four vaults have already been installed under two eastside streets:

  • Two side-by-side vaults on SE 147th Avenue at SE Division Street
  • One vault at SE 159th Avenue at SE Harrison Street
  • One vault at SE 42nd Avenue at SE Division Street 

Three vaults are scheduled to be installed within the next six months:

  • One vault at SE 67th Avenue and SE Division Street
  • One vault at SE 68th Avenue and SE Division Street
  • One vault at SE 162nd Street andSE Division Street

Vault at SE 147th Avenue at SE Powell BoulevardWhile we’ve worked with nearby residents and businesses to minimize construction impacts and ensure safe worksites and clearly marked detour routes, some noise, truck traffic, and street access impacts will be unavoidable. 

Your patience is appreciated as we work to upgrade and improve our community’s century-old water system, which first produced drinking water for Portlanders in 1895.

We work hard to be good neighbors when we do construction projects. For more project information, and to share your feedback, please call us at 503-823-6926. 

February 19, 2014

Winter/Spring 2014 Trail Updates BrochureThe Portland Water Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation have just released the Winter/Spring 2014 Trail Updates tri-fold brochure.

As part of the improvement projects at Powell Butte Nature Park, both bureaus worked with park users to develop a new trail plan that included renaming several trails. The new trail names will go into effect in late 2014. Both the new and old trail names are included on a map in the brochure. Note that trails may have periodic closures for construction during 2014.

February 12, 2014

Portions of the trails in the north section of Powell Butte Nature Park are closed. Please observe the closure signs. The public will be notified when the trails reopen. Signs will be posted at trailheads to advise park users. During the wet weather months, please help us minimize trail damage by staying off muddy trails.

February 3, 2014

As part of the improvement projects at Powell Butte Nature Park, the Portland Water Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation worked closely with park users to develop a new trail plan that included renaming several trails.

The new trail names will go into effect in late 2014. Both the new and old trail names are included on the "Powell Butte Nature Park Winter/Spring Trail Updates" brochure. Note that trails may have periodic closures for construction during 2014. 

January 24, 2014

The Pioneer Orchard Trail at Powell Butte Nature Park will be closed starting January 27, 2014.  The closure is due to muddy areas in the meadow that need to be repaired. 

The park center remains closed to the public and will reopen in May 2014. The main parking lot is closed to all vehicles and pedestrians. Interim parking is located at the Vivian Pump Station parking lot at 14424 SE Center, Gates parking lot at 13799 SE Holgate Blvd. and the PinbusterZ Family Fun Center (previously Rose Bowling Center) parking lot at 3800 SE 164 Ave. All temporary parking lots provide access to the trail system

Previous project updates can be viewed here.

Project Background
Portland must have sufficient drinking water storage capacity to meet the anticipated growth in demand for water and for fighting fires. The City must also offset the loss of its five open reservoirs (due to federal LT2 regulations). The three Mount Tabor Reservoirs will be disconnected from the City's water system in 2015; the Washington Park Reservoirs disconnected by 2020. Total project cost is estimated at $138 million.

It is for these reasons, the Portland Water Bureau is advancing its plans for a second underground 50-million gallon (MG) reservoir at Powell Butte Nature Park. The Water Bureau's long-range water storage plan includes the construction of four 50-MG reservoirs and a smaller 25-MG on Powell Butte, which was purchased by the City in 1925 for this purpose. The first underground reservoir was built in 1979-1980 and became operational in 1981.

The Portland Water Bureau conducted an extensive 13-year public process, from 1995 to 2008 to review issues related to Powell Butte Nature Park and the region's water supply system. The process included a formal Stakeholders Advisory Committee composed of interests outside of City government, including neighborhood associations, environmental organizations, recreational interests, schools, and outside water districts.

The Powell Butte Master Plan, started in 1995, identifies the City's plans to build a second reservoir by the year 2013. This plan was approved in the Powell Butte Conditional Use Master Plan (CUMP) in 2003.

As required under the CUMP -- at the public's request -- the reservoir project includes replacing the existing maintenance shed and restroom building with a new interpretive center and restroom. A new, permanent single-family residence as the Caretaker's House must be built. 

The CUMP also calls for a separate storage and maintenance facility to be built due to the expanded maintenance needs of both the Water Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation.  Additional improvements include enhancements to the park's main parking lot, a new natural grass-setting outdoor teaching area (amphitheater) that will be built to better support the educational programs in the park, and a new trail plan to reduce areas of concerns for hikers, bicyclists and equestrians. Funding for the park improvements is included as part of the Water Bureau's Powell Butte Reservoir 2 Project.

The Water Bureau and Portland Parks and Recreation established a Project Advisory Committee (PAC), a group of citizens who helped formulate criteria that was used by building design and landscape architects to develop park facility designs. PAC members represented the three local neighborhood associations, nearby homeowners, and park user interest groups, such as the Friends of Powell Butte Nature Park, the Audubon Society, and Northwest Trails, Inc. The group began meeting in October 2009, and completed their work in May 2010.

Project Schedule
Construction will occur in two phases:

Phase 1:  The first phase was the excavation of the reservoir site began in July 2009 and was completed in May 2010.  During the first phase, hundreds of tons of soil were removed and transported off the butte. An estimated 100 truck trips per day made for a total of approximately 30,000 trips to and from Powell Butte. Some of the soil is being kept on the construction site to reuse on the site once the reservoir is constructed. 

Phase 2: In phase 2, hundreds of workers are constructing the buried concrete reservoir, pipes, vaults, emergency overflow structure, and a number of required park improvements. The second phase began in May 2011, with the project scheduled for completion in late 2013.

Public Impacts
Road and Parking Lot Closures
During construction, the Powell Butte Nature Park's main parking lot and the entrance road from SE 162nd Ave. will need to be closed for extended periods of time to allow for the construction of the new park facilities. When the main lot in the park is not accessible, you can use the parking lot at the nearby Rose Bowling Center, SE 164th Ave. and SE Powell Blvd. The Water Bureau has renewed its lease with the business to use some of its parking spaces. 

Also available is the temporary parking lot located on SE Center Street near SE 144th Avenue at the Water Bureau’s Vivian pump station which is now open for public use. The temporary parking lot on SE Holgate -- east of SE 136th Avenue on former Gate’s Property -- will be open in late fall 2011.

Once reservoir construction starts, the Water Bureau will open the two new temporary parking lots located on SE Center Street at SE 144th Ave. and at the trailhead at SE Holgate near SE 136th Ave. "Road Closed" signs will be posted when the main parking lot is unavailable. Notices also will be posted at the park entrances and the main parking lot kiosk.

Most Trails will be Affected Periodically during Construction
Portland Water Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation will post the trail route changes on their respective websites and on kiosks located at each park entrance. 

Ongoing Updates 
The Portland Water Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreations staff will continue to keep the public informed about the project through our websites. In addition, there will be project news and park notices posted in the community newspapers and on kiosk bulletin boards stationed at each of the park's official entrances. The Water Bureau also introduced WaterWorks, a monthly electronic news bulletin, with project highlights and features. If you would like to receive it, please email Tim Hall, Public Information, at

Additional Information
For information about this project, contact Tim Hall, Public Information, at 503-823-6926 or 503-381-0056 (cell).

Thank you for your patience and cooperation as the Portland Water Bureau works to improve the city’s century old water system.

Previous Park Improvements at Powell Butte

Powell Butte Nature Park's previous improvements

Project Background

Background information at Powell Butte

Stormwater Management Report

Powell Buttee Reservoir #2 - Phase 2 Design

Powell Butte History

History of orchards and pastures

Land Use Review

LU 10-169463 CUMS EN AD

WaterWorks e-newsletter

Sign up for e-newsletter

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs about Powell Butte

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