Photo by LisaAnn Kawachi
Views from the Bridge: Gabriel and Samantha Namay of Portland take a moment to look out over the Columbia River with their 4-year-old daughter, Ronin, as they walk across the Bridge of the Gods in the annual community walk over the scenic bridge on Saturday. Pedestrian access is available at any time, for 50 cents, and walkers must carefully traverse it along with vehicles. For the annual walk, the bridge is closed to vehicles, allowing people to stroll, walk, or bike over the bridge, and to stop awhile to peer over the edge and admire the views of Oregon and Washington.
The City of Cascade Locks is set to receive $3.7 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to overhaul its long-suffering water infrastructure.
With funds from the USDA Rural Improvement loan, the city plans to replace 1,500 feet of deteriorated, “leaky” distribution lines, drill a new well, and switch out a 120-year-old water reservoir with a new storage tank.
The project will mark the first substantial water improvement by the city in more than 20 years.
“This is huge, really critical … for a little city that has gone so long without improvements to its water system,” said Gordon Zimmerman, Cascade Locks City Administrator.
Zimmerman said the city loses half of the water it pumps to residents, businesses and fire agencies due to aging distribution lines (which are riddled with small leaks, according to city reports) and other issues with the current water infrastructure. The city pumps 8 million gallons of water per month into the water system, but water bills only account for 4 million gallons. The other half vanishes — unaccounted for and unbilled for.
Recognizing the problem, the city completed a Water System Master Plan in 2014 with the guidance of Tenneson Engineering out of The Dalles. The plan outlined 10 projects the city would have to take on in the next five years to catch the system up to speed. The city then applied for federal funding through the USDA’s Water and Waste Disposal Program.
USDA announced the loan would go to Cascade Locks Monday. USDA state director Vicki Walker said the loan from Rural Development will help the city “ensure adequate utilities for its residents and businesses” and “set the foundation for future growth.”
“It can be a struggle for small, rural communities to finance significant infrastructure projects,” said Walker. “Cascade Locks has lacked the funding for these improvements for more than 20 years.”
The small Columbia River city, population 1,230, has about 490 water users.
The last major water infrastructure updates — in the 1990s — included the city’s second well, a piece of mainline piping on Frontage Road, and several water meters used to measure water quality, according to a 2014 city water assessment.
New upgrades include replacement of Dry Creek Reservoir (which was built by the Corps of Engineers in the 1890s) with a new tank at Crystal Springs at the southwest end of town, a new well on Herman Creek, and the placement of old 2-inch to 6-inch lines running within WaNaPa Street through downtown Cascade Locks with a single 12-inch mainline.
Also new will be a mainline through Forest Lane, which will feed into industrial users at the port’s Business Park. Currently, the port has three industrial users: Bear Mountain Forest Products, Pear Puff Factory and Heuker Bros. fish processing facility.
The city and port have attempted to site a Nestlé water bottling plant in the business park as well, but Zimmerman said the project was not intended for the corporation.
“It’s designed not for Nestlé but for anybody,” said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman said in addition to its leaky pipes, the current system lacks the peak flow required for large scale industrial use, and for fire flow in emergencies.