City begins work on wastewater outfall project

City worker Jaime Mina pieces together a tarp wall flanking the Hook road, where the city plans to install an extended wastewater outfall pipe into the Columbia River. The waterfront piece will be closed until spring, at which point a continuous pedestrian path will open up from the Hook to Nichols Basin.

The Hook is abuzz with construction as workers prepare the sandy curl of the Hood River waterfront for the city’s wastewater outfall project. The endeavor will route a new, extended sewage pipe under the Hook road and into the Columbia River, facing Wells Island.

Due to crews and machinery on site, the Hook will remain closed until March or April. At that point, the city plans to build a walkable trail connecting the Port of Hood River’s Hook Boat Launch to the Waterfront Park path.

The wastewater project will make way for a new “mixing zone,” or spot where the municipal wastewater treatment plant on Riverside Drive flushes out its treated effluent into the river. Instead of ending directly north of the plant, the new pipeline will reach a half mile, running on the Hook and then west into the river.

City officials had been eyeing a new outfall spot for seven years, largely in response to the formation of the Spit in 2006. The landmass, born when a glacier on Mount Hood broke free and tumbled its way down into the Hood River and then the Columbia, altered the river’s flow, forming an eddy near the treatment plant.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality recommended the new mixing zone to avoid dropping into the newly formed swirl, and offered the city a low-interest loan for $2.76 million to get the job done. City council in June approved the loan agreement, which came at 1.4 percent.

It would be a “surprise” if the city needs the whole amount to finish their work, said Public Works Director Mark Lago. Including construction, engineering and change orders, he estimated the project at $2 million.

Lago sees the pipe project as a long-term gain. “I think this would probably be the last time the City of Hood River (installs) an outfall pipe,” he said.

Groundwork is already underway. Crews are digging into the sand of the Hook and finding a surprising amount of boulders seven feet under the surface, but work is otherwise rolling on schedule. The “non-negotiable” deadline for underwater work is March 15.

Reno Marr, project superintendent with Emery & Sons Construction based in Salem, said he hopes to start in-water work within the next week. He anticipates the first phase will take at least three weeks, and will require barges to set in place a specialized manifold (large pipe to which smaller channels lead) which is “being built just for this project.”

In total, there will be roughly 22,000 feet of land piping and 335 feet underwater. Lago said curtain-like walls be put in the water around the piping to trap in “cloudy” waste.

Dev Bell, project engineer for Bell Design Company, said the outfall extension project has been vetted by statewide and local groups.

“This (project) has gone through a pretty rigorous review by every state agency and every tribe. Everybody has looked at this thing,” Bell said.

Once the wastewater project is complete, the city will construct concrete barriers around a new eight foot wide pedestrian and bike walkway that connects the Hook Boat Launch to the Waterfront Park trail. Both properties are owned by the Port, with the city working through an easement deal.

Bell feels confident in the combined crews’ ability to bring in the project to a successful close.

“These guys have been approved … and they’re more than capable of doing the work,” Bell said. “We’re in pretty good shape here.”

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