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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

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Willamette River Crossing Project

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An earthquake resistant water pipe carries water under the river 


Strengthening the Backbone of Portland’s Water Supply System

Not if, but when… You’ve heard about our region’s earthquake risks. The current water mains that cross the Willamette will probably not work after a major earthquake.

When the existing crossings are damaged by an earthquake, it will leave the city core without reliable water for six months or longer. This could lead to dangerous conditions for fire and human health, and the loss of billions of dollars of economic output. Not only does investment in this project make sure we can fight fires and provide water to critical facilities like hospitals after an earthquake, it also strengthens our region’s economic recovery. 

The Willamette River Crossing Project, which will build an earthquake-resilient water line deep under the Willamette River, is part of the Water Bureau’s commitment to preparedness. This new pipe is critical in making sure we can get water to the west side of the Willamette after an earthquake.

How Will It Be Built

The Portland Water Bureau is using a “design-build” method for the Willamette River Crossing Project. This means the project team is collaborating with a contractor to design the project. This allows for feedback loops throughout design that will offer early and ongoing opportunities to mitigate negative construction impacts, which will ultimately improve construction timelines, and provide the best value for our customers.

An illustration shows which drilling techniques will be used under the streets of Portland.

Why Here?

In 2012, the Portland Water Bureau conducted a thorough study of all potential locations for a new, seismically resilient water main. The study considered such factors as:

  • Hydraulics
  • Maintenance and shut down requirements
  • Location of existing crossings in the distribution system
  • Constraints of existing infrastructure (bridges, pilings, rail lines, etc.)
  • Construction staging area requirements

A map shows project construction areas at 1720 SW Naito Parkway, on SE Water Avenue, and on SE Stephens and Harrison between 7th and 11th avenues.

Our current design places the west-side connection point in SW Portland and places the east-side connection point in SE Portland between 7th and 10th. There will also be some work done along Water Bureau-owned land in a parking lot near OMSI and the PCC Climb Center in inner-southeast. Crews will stage 1,600 feet of pipe deep underneath the busy commercial zone on the east side before feeding it under the river. This means less impact on businesses and the public.

For More Information

Katy Asher
Project Communications
503-823-7499 | wrx@portlandoregon.gov