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Portland Water Bureau

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REMINDER: Proposed Washington Park Reservoir Project Initial Land Use Review Application: Public Comment Period Now Open, Historic Landmarks Commission Meeting Scheduled for March 23

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In February 2015, the City of Portland Bureau of Development Services (BDS) deemed the Portland Water Bureau’s initial Type IV Land Use Review (LUR) application for the proposed Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project as complete. 

This designation officially opened the public comment period and set the date for the Historic Landmarks Commission public meeting and the City Council hearing.

The Water Bureau’s initial LUR application proposes the removal of the Weir Building (screen house), portions of lower Reservoir 4’s basin, and upper Reservoir 3’s basin in Washington Park. The gatehouses, dams, and other historic features will be protected and restored.

Project Details
In order to comply with federal and state mandates, and ensure a healthy, resilient, and secure water system, the Portland Water Bureau is moving forward with a project to update the Washington Park reservoir site.

Proposed project at Washington Park

The Water Bureau’s Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project proposes to build a new below-ground reservoir in the same general footprint as the existing upper Reservoir 3, with a reflecting pool on top.

Upper Reservoir 3 Lower Reservoir 4
Left to right: Upper Reservoir 3 and lower Reservoir 4

The lower Reservoir 4 basin and the slope to the west are needed to provide landslide abatement; the slope will be restored to its pre-reservoir condition. Reservoir 4 will be disconnected from the public drinking water system and a lowland habitat area/bioswale and a reflecting pool are also proposed in the Reservoir 4 basin. Work will primarily be within the Historic District.

The project addresses major reservoir issues, including recurrent landslide damage, compliance with federal law, seismic vulnerability, and deterioration of the 120-year-old structures.

Key Dates of NotePublic Comments
Public comments on the initial LUR application received by Monday, March 9 will be part of the official record and included in the staff report presented during the upcoming Historic Landmarks Commission public meeting. Access a courtesy copy of the LUR application on the Water Bureau’s project webpage at

Comments can be e‑mailed to, faxed to 503-823-5630, or mailed to:

Hillary Adam
Land Use Services, Bureau of Development Services
RE: LU 14-249689
1900 SW Fourth Avenue, Suite 4500
Portland, OR 97201

Please reference Land Use Review number LU 14-249689 in any communications.

Public comments after Monday, March 9 can be mailed to the Historic Landmarks Commission at 1900 SW Fourth Avenue, Suite 4500, Portland, OR 97201 or faxed to 503-823-5630.

Public Meeting Testimony
A Historic Landmarks Commission public meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday, March 23 on the second floor of 1900 SW Fourth Avenue, Conference Room 2500A.

During the meeting, the Commission will listen to public testimony and review the initial Type IV LUR application and staff report that includes mailed, faxed, or e-mailed public comments. After the meeting, the Commission will forward a letter with recommendations to the Portland City Council.

The City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Thursday, April 23 to make the final decision on the initial LUR application.

Next Steps
In spring 2015, the Water Bureau will submit a second LUR application package that includes two Type III applications. The LUR package will propose the construction of a new covered reservoir, reflecting pools, lowland habitat area/bioswale, walkways, and historic preservation and rehabilitation actions.

The second LUR application process will also include comments period, public meeting, and hearing to ensure public notification and the opportunity to comment before a final land use decision is rendered. 

Before work permits are issued or construction begins, all LUR applications must be approved. This includes the initial Type IV LUR application and the Type III LUR application package.

The LUR applications are a result of a robust public involvement process that included multiple public open houses and nine Community Sounding Board (CSB) meetings that guided design for the required visible features of the Washington Park project.

Additional Information & Contacts
For detailed project information, visit the project webpage or contact Water Bureau Public Information staff by e-mail or at 503-823-3028.

Visit the Bureau of Development Services’ website or call 503-823-7300 for more information on the land use review application process.

Lindsay Wochnick
Public Information

It’s Groundwater Awareness Week: Be Informed & Help Protect a Vital Resource

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During the week of March 8, the Portland Water Bureau joins the National Groundwater Association and other partners to give special recognition to one of our nation’s most valuable resources - GROUNDWATER.

Readers are encouraged to follow the Water Bureau on Twitter and Facebook for posts that will discuss why groundwater is important to our drinking water supply, and what you can do to be a groundwater steward and help protect this resource.

Groundwater – It’s Right Underneath Your Feet

Groundwater is the water that soaks into the soil from rain or other precipitation and moves deep underground to fill cracks and other openings in beds of rock and sand called aquifers. It is a renewable natural resource when used wisely. Of all the fresh water in the world (excluding polar ice caps), 95 percent is groundwater. Surface water (lakes and rivers) make up only three percent of the world’s fresh water.

Groundwater affects everyone.

Groundwater provides drinking water for nearly half our nation’s population (including Portland and surrounding communities) and provides about 40 percent of America’s irrigation water. It sustains streamflow between rain events and during long dry periods, and it helps maintain healthy aquatic ecosystems in streams, lakes, and wetlands.

Groundwater serves as the secondary source of Portland’s drinking water.

To access the water beneath our feet, Portland has 27 wells in three regional aquifers in the Columbia South Shore Well Field. The Well Field can provide close to 100 million gallons of drinking water a day in emergency situations or to augment Bull Run supply in the summer. This reliable backup water source is also a big reason that Portland is able to maintain the region’s primary drinking water supply in the Bull Run watershed as an unfiltered drinking water source. Learn more here. 

Groundwater Protection: Do Your Part

We all play a role in preserving our vital drinking water resources. Whether you’re a resident, business owner, employee or farmer, you can make a difference. Even small amounts of chemicals spilled, leaked or dumped on the ground can find their way into our aquifers.

Are you ready to join Portland Water Bureau in protecting groundwater? Start by taking one or more of the following actions:

  • Carefully follow all instructions for the use, storage and disposal of household chemicals, and never pour them down a storm drain.
  • Check underground storage tanks for leaks. Many older homes have underground heating oil tanks. Information on checking for leaks and decommissioning can be found here.
  • Report chemical spills and illegal dumping. Call Oregon Emergency Response System at 1-800-452-0311 and Bureau of Environmental Services at 503-823-7180.

To increase your groundwater awareness, visit Help promote and protect this valuable resource.

Doug Wise
Groundwater Protection

Get to Know Your Watershed at Slough 101

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Activities on the Slough

Join the Columbia Slough Watershed Council on Saturday, March 14 for Slough 101, a FREE workshop about the Columbia Slough watershed and its unique story.

Event detailsSponsored by the Portland Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services, Slough 101 covers local history, water, wildlife, and current issues in the watershed. 

Explore watershed health, environmental issues, and recreation opportunities in North and Northeast Portland, Gresham, and Fairview, and participate in hands-on groundwater activities, levee and pump station tours, and macroinvertebrate (aka: stream critters) identification.

Light refreshments will be provided. The workshop is suitable for adults and teens, age 14 and older.

Pre-registration is required. Register online or call 503 281-1132.

For more information, visit the Columbia Slough Watershed Council’s Activities and Events webpage

The Columbia Slough is a 60-mile long remnant of lakes, wetlands, and slow-moving channels in the southern floodplain of the Columbia River. Today the 40,000 acre watershed contains 24,000 homes, 4,500 businesses, andis home to 1/10 of all the jobs in Oregon. The region’s back-up drinking water source, the Columbia South Shore Well Field, also lies deep below the eastern half of the watershed.

As habitats are modified throughout the Portland metropolitan region and the entire Northwest, the Slough’s importance as a component of our regional system of greenspaces grows. The Slough is one of the largest urban waterways contained wholly within the metropolitan urban growth boundary. This vast ribbon of habitat and open space can be explored by foot, bicycle or canoe and kayak.

The Slough and its watershed represent an irreplaceable resource, both for the region and for north and northeast Portland, Gresham, Fairview, Troutdale, and Wood Village. Learn more here.

Doug Wise
Groundwater Protection

Join Volunteer Restoration at Powell Butte Nature Park

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On Saturday, March 14 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, the public is invited to volunteer alongside the Friends of Powell Butte Nature Park, Hands On Greater Portland, and Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) to perform needed trail maintenance and restoration work at Powell Butte Nature Park.

Volunteers are encouraged to wear long thick pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and sturdy shoes. Bring a backpack, water bottle, rain gear, and sunhat. Instruction, tools, gloves, water, coffee/tea, and granola bars will be provided. Volunteers will be walking up to five miles during the event.

Meet at the SE Ellis Street and SE 145th Avenue. Recommended parking is on SE Ellis Street. Please be aware not to block neighbors’ driveways.

Please be aware that a major construction project is under completion within the Powell Butte Nature Park. Volunteers are reminded to keep out of fenced hazardous construction areas and to stay on open designated park trails during the restoration event.

This volunteer opportunity is family-friendly and all ages are welcome to participate. However, children must be accompanied and supervised by an adult for the duration of the volunteer event.

Volunteers are asked to RSVP online to Hands On Portland. For more information, contact PP&R Stewardship Coordinator Susan Hawes at 503-823-6131 or by e-mail.

Lindsay Wochnick
Public Information

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Reducing Lead Hazards in Portland

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Each quarter, the Portland Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services offer important information on rebates, payment options, drinking water quality, and water efficiency tips in printed inserts that accompany your sewer-stormwater-water bill.

Bill insert from Lead Hazard Reduction Program Bill insert from Lead Hazard Reduction Program 
March Bill Insert 

In the March bill, customers will find an insert from the Portland Water Bureau’s Lead Hazard Reduction Program about lead in drinking water. The Lead Hazard Reduction Program focuses on providing information and tools to protect you and your family from the most common sources of lead. In Portland, lead in water is generally only a concern in a home with copper plumbing and lead solder. These tend to be homes that were built or plumbed between 1970 and 1985. However, the most common source of lead exposure is dust from lead-based paint in homes built before 1978. 

Community partners around the Portland-area are supported by the program to help residents identify and reduce exposure to lead hazards. Resources from our community partners that are available to you include: 

To learn more about these programs and about reducing lead exposure around your home, contact the Multnomah County Health Department LeadLine at 503-988-4000 or

Sarah Messier
Water Quality