On Wednesday, July 22, the Portland City Council will consider a resolution referring a City Charter amendment to Portland voters for the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot, to authorize incidental public use of Water Bureau properties outside the Bull Run Watershed when approved by the City Council. The resolution is sponsored by Commissioner Amanda Fritz, the Commissioner-in-Charge of the Portland Water Bureau. She led the successful passage of two Charter Amendments concerning the Water Bureau in 2019, both of which were overwhelmingly approved by voters. The measure will not impact City lands in the Bull Run Watershed Closure Area.
“The Water Bureau provides excellent water every minute of every day to Portlanders. Through this ballot measure, we would add another community benefit by allowing limited public use of some properties outside the Bull Run Watershed Closure Area,” said Commissioner Fritz. “This could include community gardens, picnic benches on grassy areas near water tanks, or other public uses to connect neighbors with their water utility. Passage of this ballot measure would complete Commissioner Nick Fish’s and my work to clarify appropriate uses of Water Bureau property and funds in the Charter, which I want to finish before I leave office at the end of this year.”
A 2014 advisory ruling in Multnomah County Court decided that the City Charter does not clearly provide authority to the City Council to designate these lands for public use using ratepayer money for maintenance. The proposed Charter amendment would enable the City Council to designate Water Bureau properties for incidental public uses using the Water Fund. Currently, General Fund money is needed to allow the public to use these public lands for greenspaces, food cultivation, or picnic areas.
If passed, the proposed amendment would clarify Council authority to permit or prohibit incidental uses by the general public of City lands controlled by the Water Bureau, provided the lands are outside of the Bull Run Watershed Closure Area. Incidental public uses may include green spaces, community gardens or other functions that do not conflict with the primary drinking water purpose of these lands, and the City Council would have to approve the specific uses allowed. The public’s incidental use may result in associated costs to the Water Fund, including costs to comply with accessibility standards required by Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act when public access is allowed.
ABOUT THE PORTLAND WATER BUREAU
The Portland Water Bureau serves water to almost a million people in the Portland area. Portland’s water system includes two great water sources, 53 tanks and reservoirs, and 2,200 miles of pipes. With 600 employees working on everything from water treatment to customer service, the Water Bureau is committed to serving excellent water every minute of every day.