Water tank siting questioned

Oak Harbor’s three water storage reservoirs, containing a combined volume of 3.1 million gallons of the necessary resource, are no longer sufficient to serve the growing population.

The Oak Harbor City Council approved a $202,000 contract with Gray & Osborne, Inc. recently to pay for engineering design services for a new reservoir project. Several council members, however, had misgivings about the possible eyesore.

The first phase of the project involved selecting a firm, the funding for which was included in the water division budget. Project Engineer Arnie Peterschmidt said constructing a new reservoir is an essential component of the city’s water system infrastructure. The city’s water system plan indicates that additional standby storage is necessary, not only to meet community needs but to comply with state regulations.

“Assistance from an engineering design consultant is needed due to the size, scope and complexity of the project,” Peterschmidt said.

The second phase of the project, with an estimate cost of $150,000, would entail developing detailed construction plans and construction contract documents based on the work in the first phase. The third and final phase would be construction with a price tag of approximately $2.6 million.

Stored water allows more efficient and uniform service to customers as well as flexibility in the system’s operation, the engineer said. The surplus also represents vital liquid ammunition should firefighters need it and it also provides a limited reserve in the event of an interruption.

“Washington State Department of Health regulations require that public water systems have access to a volume of water equivalent to two average-use days when the main source of supply is not available,” Peterschmidt told the council. “The city relies on the existing reservoirs and the emergency wells to maintain the required standby storage volume.”

The minimum amount of storage required is a function of the population, the per capita demand and the necessary fire suppression volume. Based on those factors, Oak Harbor’s 2003 water system plan indicates that additional standby storage volume will be necessary by 2009.

Peterschmidt said the extra 3 million gallons of water would meet the storage needs at least through the 20-year planning period ending in 2023.

Finding the most accommodating location that fits with the project is the difficult task. Water system plans from the 1980s identified the southwest corner of SW Fort Nugent Avenue and SW Ridgeway Drive as a viable location for a new steel, standpipe-style reservoir.

“The location has been a logical choice for several reasons, notably the site is at the top of the largest hill in the area and the property is owned by the city,” the engineer said.

Staff are also considering city property on Gun Club Road and at Highway 20 and Fakkema Road, widely known as the Boyer property.

The possible new locations sparked dissension in the council. Jim Campbell asked City Engineer Eric Johnston why staff was able to consider other properties when Fort Nugent was previously the only option being examined.

“What’s changed?” he asked.

Johnston said the recent acquisition of the Boyer property and opportunity it presented was the major change. Campbell replied that if the land is truly going to be part of the “gateway to the city,” placing a reservoir on it would not be conducive to prior city plans.

“It’s my suggestion that you put Boyer last on that list,” he said.

Colleague Sheilah Crider agreed with Campbell, cautioning the city against encroachment on an expensive piece of property that was purchased to prevent just that in regards to the Navy’s flight path.

Councilman Eric Gerber had recommended earlier in the meeting ensuring that wherever the reservoir is constructed, aesthetics be a major consideration.

“It should blend in and be more of a benefit to the public, not just a big water tank,” he said.

Johnston assured the council that the consultant is highly adept at reducing any adverse visual impacts a structure might pose.

The council ultimately approved hiring the contractor.

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