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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

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Changing History at Mt. Tabor Park: A Project Update

Times are a changin’. From Washington Park to Mt. Tabor, how does a government agency preserve history while adhering to federal drinking water regulations?

The short answer is: Thoughtfully and with input from all our partners – neighbors, the public, our contractors, regulatory agencies, and in-house Water Bureau experts. The long answer is what follows.


On June 3, 2013 the Portland City Council announced that the city will move forward to meet the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule compliance deadline. This rule, also known as the LT2 rule, affects uncovered finished drinking water reservoirs.

It was agreed that the Water Bureau would disconnect the Mt. Tabor reservoirs from the potable water system by the end of 2015. The Water Bureau met the requirement in December of that year by physically separating the reservoirs from all connections to the distribution system.

With the reservoirs disconnected, extensive piping work was required to reroute and intertie the conduits and mains that formerly fed the reservoirs in order to maintain system functionality.  The majority of the work was done inside Mt. Tabor Park, including the installation of approximately 1,000 feet of 48-inch diameter steel main part of which went through the park’s dog off-leash area. Altogether, construction work was conducted in seven areas of the park, most of them in high- traffic pedestrian and bicycle paths.

Mt. Tabor Dog Park ImprovementsThe Water Bureau made every effort to alert park users about construction impacts or road and trail closures using signs, email and via the bureau’s website.

While there were a few hiccups (weather related delays), the project went very well. Here at the bureau, we are very appreciative of the patience shown by park users and local residents.

What’s Next for the Reservoirs?

Reservoir #5 with view of downtown Portland, taken 1935

Reservoir #5 with view of downtown Portland. Photo taken circa 1935.

While the reservoirs no longer supply drinking water to city residents, they continue to be an asset to the City and are an integral and historic part of Mt. Tabor Park.

As part of the Land Use Review, the Water Bureau worked with City Council and the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association (MTNA) to determine how the reservoirs and historic architectural features would be operated and managed over the next four years. Now that the reservoirs are not part of the water system and no longer generate electricity, oversight of the dams has shifted from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to the State of Oregon Water Resources Department. 

The Water Bureau and members of the MTNA are charged with exploring alternative methods to maintain clean water at historic levels, and to maximize the number of days the reservoirs are full, in order to preserve the character of the reservoirs and the park in the most efficient and sustainable manner possible.

Besides maintaining the reservoirs, the City of Portland has committed $4 million over the next four years to begin restoration of the historic integrity of the reservoirs and their buildings, walls and fences.  A project team comprised of Portland Water Bureau and Parks Bureau staff and representatives of the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association and the Friends of Mount Tabor Park are managing the implementation of the activities related to the Mt. Tabor Reservoirs Historic Preservation Project.

More Information

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