Above: Members of the Cascade Groundwater Alliance, including Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall and Rockwood PUD Board President Tom Lewis, are joined by Senator Jeff Merkley and our very own Brian Ginter to shovel some ceremonial dirt at the Package No. 1 project site.
While rain may typically be considered bad weather for a ceremony, the showers—a rare break in our uncharacteristically dry and hot summer—seemed to be a friendly (and fitting) omen of good things to come as we gathered to celebrate water.
On August 17, 2021, Rockwood Water People’s Utility District and the City of Gresham (partners in the Cascade Groundwater Alliance) held the groundbreaking ceremony for the Cascade Groundwater Development Program, a joint undertaking of nine project packages that will allow both agencies to fully supply their customers with water from the Cascade Groundwater System.
“Today we’re celebrating the beginning of construction on our new water supply,” stated Rockwood Water Board President Tom Lewis, “We’re also celebrating the power of partnership.”
Before they called themselves the Cascade Groundwater Alliance, Rockwood PUD and the City of Gresham enjoyed a 20-year history of collaboration, working to construct and operate the Cascade Wellfield, which supplements the water purchased from the City of Portland to provide safe and affordable water during peak-use summer months. Murraysmith has been a partner with the agencies for almost two decades, designing the 4-mile-long, 30-inch-diameter transmission main that delivers the existing groundwater supply from the Cascade site to both utilities’ terminal reservoirs on the south side of Gresham. Murraysmith also designed the wellhouse for Cascade Well 5 and has provided engineering services for upgrades to other key components of the existing groundwater supply infrastructure for both the City and District.
Today, the two agencies have taken their partnership to new heights, with a goal of having their jointly owned and operated 26-million-gallon (MG) water system online by 2025. The system will draw from the Sand and Gravel Aquifer—the oldest and deepest in the basin—to provide affordable and resilient water to its ratepayers.
“With the Water District, we serve one of the most diverse zip codes in the entire state, which includes a large population of recent immigrants, low-income residents, seniors, and families with children—and that’s critical as we think about the cost of things,” said Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall, “The WIFIA loan that we will be accessing ensures an equitable and affordable delivery of quality water to our vulnerable communities and populations, and it’s critical to the success of this project.”
The approximately $120 million Cascade Groundwater Development Program is partially funded by a Federal Water Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loan. The WIFIA program was introduced to Congress by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley in 2014, and officially launched in 2016. Senator Merkley was a guest of honor at the groundbreaking event.
Construction on the first major package has started and includes a new well (Cascade #7), a new 6.0 MG prestressed concrete reservoir that will be the tallest of its kind in the region (Cascade #2), rehabilitation of an existing 4.0 MG welded steel reservoir (Cascade #1), and multiple new waterlines. Murraysmith + Quincy completed design and bidding of the package earlier this year and is currently performing construction phase services for the multifaceted improvements project. In 2018, as the Alliance partners began contemplating a major expansion of the groundwater supply, they reached out to our team to help develop the blueprint for this ambitious water supply program. The Groundwater Development Master Plan is the guiding document that identifies needed improvements, overall schedule, and program budget needed to secure an independent water supply future for the community with the same level of high-quality, reliable supply that the City and District have historically received from the Portland Water Bureau.
“Over the next four years there will be many projects that will be taking place throughout the City of Gresham and East Portland as we begin to realize this shared vision of groundwater management for our communities,” shared Brian Stahl, former General Manager of Rockwood Water who retired earlier this year, “Today is a special day as it marks the beginning of the realization of this vision.”