4/19/2014

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Politics

Group wants a public vote on who controls Portland's water

Group wants a public vote on who controls Portland's water

PORTLAND, Ore. – A group that wants to keep Portland's open-air reservoirs from being shut down now plans to ask voters to take the water operations out of the hands of city officials.

The group, Friends of the Reservoirs, plans to start gathering signatures for a ballot measure for a citywide vote next May.

The proposed entity could be a public water district, or a PUD, or some other publicly elected water commission.

In a June 23 letter to Portland’s City Council, Floy Jones wrote, "If City Council fails us again we will work in support of alternate management of the Portland Water Bureau, a P.U.D."

The group thinks the city hasn't fought hard enough to keep the open reservoirs operating despite orders from the Environmental Protection Agency that have been backed up by the federal courts.

The federal government has already allowed Rochester, N.Y. to delay the same kind of work. Critics believe the city should try again for a similar deal.

They say every Portland customer should care because the project would pump up water bills another 44 percent over the next five years.

Portland's City Council has made it clear it's given up fighting the federal government's order to decommission the open reservoirs. Federal officials say the open reservoirs leave the water supply vulnerable to contamination.

Friends of the Reservoirs and other groups are planning a press conference Thursday to announce a signature-gathering campaign.

The backers range from people who successfully fought Portland's efforts to put fluoride in the drinking water to those behind a $126-million lawsuit against the city, alleging it has misspent taxpayer money on projects like the "Big Pipe" storm-water system.

The measure would set up a seven-member elected board to manage Portland's water operations.

City officials aren't commenting yet on what might come out of Thursday's press conference.

On Wednesday night Mount Tabor's Neighborhood Association heard details of what will be formally announced Thursday morning.

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