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Portland Water Bureau

From forest to faucet, we deliver the best drinking water in the world.


1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97204

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why build the second reservoir at Powell Butte now?

The City of Portland must have sufficient drinking water storage capacity to meet the anticipated growth in demand for water due to population projections, for fire suppression and emergency response, and to offset the possible loss of the City's five open reservoirs that may need to be disconnected from the water system.

The Water Bureau's long-range water storage plan includes the construction of up to four 50-million gallon reservoirs on Powell Butte. The first reservoir was built in 1979 and became operational in 1981. The Powell Butte Master Plan, completed in 1996, states the bureau's commitment to build a second reservoir within the "next 20 years." In 2002, a Preliminary Design Report was completed by the engineering firm CH2M Hill. Under the existing 2003 Land Use Review Plan for Powell Butte, the bureau was scheduled to start building a second reservoir by 2013. Current plans now have the construction starting in 2009 and completed in 2012.

2. Was there a public process on the decision to build this reservoir?

Yes. The 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, schools, environmental organizations, recreational interests and outside water districts.

Powell Butte was purchased in 1925 solely as the site for City of Portland water storage reservoirs. The property is first and foremost a regional water facility with long range plans for additional storage. In 1987, Powell Butte was established as a natural resources-based park. It was officially opened to the public in 1990.

3. How will the underground reservoir be constructed?

The Water Bureau plans to build the reservoir in two phases. The first phase will be the excavation of the site; the second phase will be construction of the concrete floor, walls, pillars and roof of the reservoir.

The first phase began in the spring 2009.
During the first phase, hundreds of tons of soil was removed and transported off the butte. Some mounds of the soil were kept on the construction site to fill the space against the reservoir walls once they are in place and used as topsoil for restoration. The second phase of reservoir construction began in 2012.

4. Is building a water filtration plant on Powell Butte a part of the construction project?

No. There are no plans to build a water filtration facility at Powell Butte in the current approved Land Use Review and Conditional Use Master Plan.

5. Why won't the city build an open water reservoir at Powell Butte for more park appeal?

Across the United States, underground reservoirs have been preferred for more than 30 years because they reliably and cost-effectively ensure drinking water quality. The federal government no longer allows cities to construct or rebuild open reservoirs for drinking water storage. Recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations require the few remaining cities with open reservoirs like Portland to either cover them or treat the water at each reservoir's outlet.

6. Will the Powell Butte Nature Park remain open during construction?

Yes. The park will remain open to the public while the work is underway. Vehicular access to the park's main parking lot will be affected by construction traffic, so the road will be closed intermittently during Phase 2 to ensure public safety. A large section of the park will be restricted due to the reservoir construction activities. The work zone boundaries will be surrounded with metal range-type fencing.

The Portland Water Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation are committed to keeping the nature park and its uses (hiking, bicycling, equestrian use, bird watching, etc.) open to the public and as normal as possible while the work proceeds.

7. What will be the hours of construction?

Construction hours will be determined once a contractor has been hired for the project. Normally for spring-summer construction, the work hours are 7 am to 6 pm, Monday through Friday. Fall hours are typically 7 am to 5 pm. It has not yet been determined if the contractor will be permitted to work on weekends (Saturday and Sunday). Night work will be minimal. The park's regular seasonal open-close hours will not change.

8. Will the main park parking lot remain open?

During the excavation phase of construction (Phase 1), the main road into the park -- SE 162nd Avenue -- and the parking lot will be closed during construction hours. Once construction stops at a posted evening hour, the public will be allowed to park in the main lot until the nature park officially closes. Park users will be encouraged to use alternate sites to park their vehicles and access the park during construction.

During the second phase of the project -- the construction of the reservoir -- the access to the main parking lot will be open for park use. There may be intermittent closures to accommodate construction. The Water Bureau will notify the public prior to the start of the construction phase of its decision.

The Water Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation are currently evaluating alternative locations for car and bus parking. Once these locations have been determined, the public will be notified. The safety of Powell Butte Nature Park users is a top priority for the City, Portland Parks & Recreation and the Water Bureau.

9. Will the construction affect any of the hiking trails?

Yes. Currently at least two of the nature park's popular hiking trails must be realigned outside of the construction zone. Portland Parks & Recreation will post the trail route changes on kiosks located at each park entrance. Portland Parks & Recreation is reviewing the trails and developing a plan for temporary and permanent changes.

10. How will the park's wildlife be protected?

The Water Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation will take steps to limit the impacts to the nature park wildlife inhabitants as reasonably as possible. Appropriate fencing will be in place to keep animals out of harms way. The Water Bureau will also consult with the Audubon Society about birds. The Water Will also be consulting with wildlife experts and an ecologist to minimize impacts to the nature park and habitats as much as practical.

11. How many trucks can be expected on the road and which streets are affected?

It is anticipated that during the excavation phase, there will be one truck exiting the park's only access road -- SE 162nd Avenue -- every 2 to 4 minutes. An estimated 100 truck trips per day for a total of approximately 30,000 trips -- to and from Powell Butte -- over a six to eight month period. This tremendous volume of truck traffic would pose a safety risk to park users driving on the same road, so the park road will be closed during posted construction hours.

Until a destination for the excavated soil is determined, the Water Bureau cannot yet report what other arterial streets in addition to SE 162nd Avenue and SE Division Street will be affected. No trucks will be permitted to cut through residential streets.

12. Will the construction zone be fenced?

Yes. For public safety, a metal range-type fence will be installed around the reservoir construction zone. This is not a chain-link fence. However, there will be certain areas where chain-link fencing will be used by the contractor in order to secure equipment, vehicles and materials. The gates will likely be chain-link though. This fence will be removed when construction is complete. There are a few areas that will have permanent fences.

13. Will there be more security in the park during construction?

Portland Water Bureau Security personnel and Portland Police Bureau officers will continue to patrol the area. The contractor will provide additional security to safeguard their construction site, vehicles, materials and equipment. Park users are encouraged to report any suspicious activities by calling 9-1-1.

14. Are there any park improvements that are part of this project?

Yes. As part of the Conditional Use Master Plan, the reservoir project includes replacing the existing maintenance shed and restroom building into an Interpretive Center and restroom facility. A new, separate storage and maintenance facility at a different location will be built due to the expanded maintenance needs of both the Water Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation. In addition, the existing gravel main parking lot will be paved, trail improvements will be made, and a new natural grass-setting amphitheater will be built to better support the educational outreach programs in the park.

Over the years, both the Water Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation have made improvements to the Powell Butte Nature Park. These enhancements include realigned stormwater drain pipes off the Holgate Trail, the removal of large boulders that once blocked the south entrance to the Holgate Trail, and a 2006 drainage study that included local citizen involvement in proposing bioswales as an alternative to concrete drain ditches for the new reservoir. Check the Nature Park page for more park related updates

15. How will the Water Bureau keep the public informed about this project?

The Water Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation staff are finalizing a public information plan. We are also developing an online Project Update Newsletter that the public can sign up to receive. There will be project news and park notices posted in the local community newspapers, neighborhood association bulletins, and on kiosk bulletin boards that will be stationed at each of the park's official entrances.

The Water Bureau and Portland Parks & Recreation staff will make regular reports at meetings of the Friends of Powell Butte, and the Powellhurst-Gilbert, Centennial, and Pleasant Valley neighborhood associations. We will send out public notices to area residents and park users if there are any new developments on the project.

***For more answers to questions about this project, contact Lindsay Wochnick at 503-823-3028