Portland City Council set to approve higher water and sewer rates

Portland City Council set to approve higher water and sewer rates

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Two days after Portland voters turned down taking the water bureau away from City Council, they should get ready for rate hikes.

Portland's City Council is set to approve higher water and sewer rates, and those rate increases haven't reached the high-water mark yet.

The increases will kick in a little over a month from now.
Portland ratepayers have to swallow much bigger water and sewer bills than they had to just a few years ago. But directives from city commissioners to cut costs have softened the blow for rate increases due to take effect July 1.

The average combined water and sewer bill in Portland is up 64 percent since 2004 through 2005.

The city blames most of that increase for federal mandates to cover reservoirs and build the Big Pipe storm water project to keep sewage from flowing into the Willamette River.

The water bureau was budgeting for a 14 percent increase, but City Commissioner Nick Fish ordered cuts that sliced the increase in half.

“We're looking at a seven percent increase or about a dollar ninety-three cents a month for a typical residential customer,” said David Shaff, Portland Water Bureau administrator. “Our system development charges are more or less flat. For our most common meter size we're seeing a two dollar increase. For our larger meters we're actually seeing a decrease.”

City officials say very little of the increase is due to questionable spending on things like a new sewer administration building, whose costs ballooned to $9 million, or to renovations of the Rose Building at Waterfront Park, or to the so-called Water House demonstration home that sold at a drastic loss.

The new rates won’t be the last. The city of Portland projects water-sewer combined bills will reach $119 a month in the next five years.