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City Scrambles To Move Water Main Before Dam Goes

On the verge of bids

With the date for the anticipated removal of Condit Dam on the White Salmon River fast approaching, the city of White Salmon is acting swiftly to ensure that a section of its main water pipeline gets relocated from the bottom of Northwestern Lake.

"We are on the verge of sending the project out for bids," explained White Salmon city attorney Ken Woodrich during the Jan. 19 meeting of the City Council. "But we don't have a final draft yet from PacifiCorp to pay for it."

PacifiCorp owns the aging, 1913-era dam that it wants to decommission and remove in October.

Part of PacifiCorp's obligations for removing the dam is to pay for White Salmon to relocate its water line -- the main water transmission line for the city's primary supply from Buck Creek.

Woodrich pointed out that the city needs to have its new water pipeline in place and ready to deliver water no later than Oct. 12, when the dam is scheduled to be breached. Once the dam is gone, the reservoir behind the dam, Northwestern Lake, will drain, thereby exposing the city's main waterline. Once exposed, the pipeline is expected to break or even be completely swept away by the force of the receding water, leaving the city unable to provide water to all of its customers.

"We need to put this out to bid now," Woodrich said. "It's the only way we'll meet this timeline. The city can reject all bids for any reason, so if there is no final agreement from PacifiCorp or if financing falls apart, we can reject the bids."

White Salmon City Administrator Pat Munyan pointed out that there are huge advantages to the city in relocating the existing waterline, which is decades old and leaking in spots.

"This project will save the city $1 million in repair projects," said Munyan. "It will replace a lot of older lines."

"It's a 50-year-old line with a 30-year lifespan," added Woodrich.

Woodrich warned that if the city does not get bids out for moving the pipeline, the relocation project may not be completed in time. He pointed out that waiting for the next council meeting in early February might be too late.

"There's a chance they'll have to tear out the dam and expose our waterline if our contractor can't get the work done in time," Woodrich said.

Munyan added that in that case, the city could temporarily use a backup system -- rerouting valves in the existing pipeline network to ensure there is no interruption in the city's water service.

PacifiCorp is responsible for any expenses associated with necessary reconfigurations in the current water distribution system.

"They have to take full responsibility for the project," Munyan noted.

City Council member Mark Peppel said he was concerned about the critical nature of the time constraints to get the project started.

"We just need to get on it," said Peppel.

Woodrich agreed.

"This is very important for the city, and very important for our distribution system," Woodrich said.

At that point, the council voted 4-0 to proceed with soliciting bids for the Buck Creek transmission line relocation project.

Bid opening is expected to take place on Feb. 22, with awarding of the construction contract for the successful bidder scheduled for March 3.

According to the engineer's estimate, the cost of waterline relocation project is in the range of $1 million-$1.2 million.

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