Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Company hired by Water Bureau pollutes creek and then donates to anti-reform PAC

CH2Mhill is the contractor that designed and engineered the leaky new water reservoir at Powell Butte.  When finally reported, the tank had been leaking 280,000 gallons per day for at least 5 weeks (that's 8 backyard pools everyday).  Ok, so that's a mess.

But that's not all... that leaking water had to go somewhere and somehow the geniuses at the Portland Water Bureau decided that large amounts of chlorinated water could just get dumped into Johnson Creek, despite it being a sensitive habitat and all. So, PWB tells the contractor to partially dechlorinate the water and then dump it in the creek. Only, the contractor didn't actually achieve anywhere near the amount of dechlorination needed to protect the wildlife in the creek.  In fact, neighbors (and presumably the contractors and the City employees on the job site) could SMELL the chlorine coming off the water in the creek bed.  And Water Bureau simply trusted the contractor that they were dumping responsibly. So they say. We have to ask, in what universe does Portland City government allow anyone to dump mass amounts of anything into a creek like Johnson without having staff on site to verify test results themselves?  Apparently, any old nose would have done.  Wait, that's right, the City hired this contractor so they definitely wouldn't have had any reason to be on site, you know, managing the project with our well paid in-house PWB engineers.

Only, chlorine isn't all we smell in this story.  Given CH2Mhill's role as the brains behind the project, it's likely they are overseeing the construction, acting much like a general contractor on the Powell Butte project (which is months behind and struggling to hold water).  It's safe to assume CH2Mhill is responsible for the subcontractor that illegally dumped... so by rights, CH2Mhill dumped chlorine in the creek and killed the fish.  Here's a fun revelation:  CH2Mhill donated $5,000 to the PAC formed by Mayor Hales to fight off a new governance structure for the Portland Water Bureau.

Incompetence reigns among Portland Water Bureau management and City Council fights to defend it. And what about the environmental groups in town?  What have they to say about the dumping (which happened months ago, yet is only just this week making it into the paper)? Where have they been on this case, why weren't they sounding the alarm when they first learned the tank was leaking?  Oh. Never mind.  This election cycle they're in the business of making the Water Bureau and City Council look good, despite evidence to the contrary, because they've decided to fight against local utility management reform.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mt. Tabor Reservoir Disconnection
Notice of Public Meetings

The Portland Water Bureau’s draft construction plan for disconnecting the Mt. Tabor reservoirs from our drinking water system is now available: click here. This construction may significantly impact Mt. Tabor Park and could affect its historic structures.  There is a brief window for public re­sponse to the draft plan and there are two important – and very different – public meetings open for all citizens to attend.

At the first meeting, on May 6, the Portland Water Bureau will present a draft construction proposal, and take community questions and comments.  Citizens will be specifically asked if this draft construction plan meets their outcome desires for the disconnect project.  Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz will be present at this meeting.  

At the second meeting, on June 11, the Water Bureau's final proposal will be presented, perhaps having responded to some of the community concerns. Both Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Water Commissioner Nick Fish will be present at this meeting.  Attending this meeting will give citizens an understanding of the project, so that they are prepared to make comments into the official case-record during the land use review (to happen in July).

These public meetings are co-sponsored by the Portland Water Bureau and the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association.  Everyone in the city is invited to participate.

Tuesday, May 6, 6:30-8:30 pm
View the draft construction plan and provide feedback
Warner Pacific College, McGuire Auditorium, 2219 SE 68th Ave

Wednesday, June 11, 6:30 -8:30 pm
View the final construction plan
Warner Pacific College, McGuire Auditorium, 2219 SE 68th Ave

Free parking: Lot accessible from SE Division 
Public Transit: TriMet bus #4   

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tabor Disconnect - Tentative timeline, public outreach by PWB

We have a rough outline of Portland Water Bureau's tentative timeline for the Tabor Disconnect land-use review process.  This is for the land-use review only.  This does not include construction timelines that happen later. 

Tentative schedule 
(updated with significant changes April 16)

·            April 24 – May 11, sporadic dates - Portland Water Bureau plans to host onsite orientation walks for their draft construction plan.  The walking tours on Mt. Tabor will be with PWB employees and will highlight select parts of their construction plan.  Tours will be limited and require advance reservations.  Visit here to register for a tour: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/water/64823              

·            May 6 – Public meeting #1; see Portland Water Bureau’s draft proposal for the disconnect construction project.  Meeting open to all citizens, come and ask questions and offer feedback. Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz will be present at this meeting.  

·            June 11 – Public meeting #2; see Water Bureau's final proposal and how it incorporates community concerns raised at May 6 meeting. Both Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Water Commissioner Nick Fish will be present at this meeting.

·           June 4 – Portland Water Bureau files the Type III version of the land use application.  PWB promises to put the entire narrative and the plan drawings online for easy access at this time. 

·            Around June 25 – The official legal record on this land use case is expected to open around June 23.  Comments made before this point will not be in the record, and they will need to be made again.  For a comment to be addressed/mentioned in the BDS staff summary given to the Historic Landmarks Commission, it will need to be in the record, and in the record before BDS writes their staff summary (approx. 15 days before the public hearing).

·            July – public comment period in which official record is open.

·            July 30 – the approximate deadline for entering comments into the record in time for them to be included in the BDS staff summary handed to the Historic Landmarks Commission.

  Around August 15 – the public hearing on this case in front of the Historic Landmarks Commission.  The public is invited to speak.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Save the Paradox Walnut Tree: 5024 SE Mill

Community Meeting:  April 23, 6-8 pm, Mt. Tabor Presbyterian Church (at the corner of SE 55th and SE Belmont) in the Tabor Space dining hall upstairs.  The developer will be present to field your comments.

Twitter: @PDXParadoxTree

A developer (Steve Melkerson, 503-309-8137) has purchased three lots near the corner of SE 50th Avenue and SE Mill Street, with plans to demolish the three homes and replace them with a 14 unit housing complex.  The easterly most lot in this development has in one corner a rare and magnificent tree that is very old, remarkably healthy, and beautifully shaped.  As we dig into this case, we are learning this tree may have significant historic value as yet unrecognized (and therefore unregistered and unprotected).

The developer does not consider this tree to add value to his new development, and he plans to cut it down.  MTNA only found out about the threat to this tree a few days before demolition was scheduled. Melkerson is within his legal rights to cut this tree.  However, this significant tree would likely be preserved had another builder purchased this lot -- as this tree adds incredibly to the livability of this lot, and as the tree is located in the corner of the lot where it can be avoided, a builder who designs custom homes and remodels would most likely choose to keep the tree.

Actions to take:
Contact the builder (503-309-8137):  Encourage the developers to consider 1) creative designs that incorporate the tree into their development plans.  A shared community green space for the housing complex would add greatly to the livability of a complex that will otherwise be surrounded mostly by concrete, and 2) selling the lot with the tree to a builder that is prepared to preserve the tree with a site-specific, custom built project.

Contact City Council: Write them all, and make two requests.  1) review this case and 2) fund the tree codes.  Additionally, if you are concerned about tree protections in Portland you need to lobby your City Council NOW to fully fund and implement the "tree codes."  Do this with a direct email or call, or by attending the April 22, Community Budget Forum (6:30 pm, David Douglas High School, 1001 SE 135th Ave, 97233).

Click here for the preliminary construction plans.

Update 4-24-14:
     The developer announced new construction plans at the community meeting last night, and signed the Heritage Tree application for the Paradox Walnut.  If he indeed files these plans with the city, this tree is saved.  The two land use people here at MTNA would like to commend Steve with Caliber Homes for doing something difficult: he took a second hard look at the site, recognizing the tree as a specific feature worth protecting.
     A big tree brings responsibilities, and MTNA is looking into establishing a fund into which neighbors can donate to help future owners of the Paradox Walnut with care costs.  Stay tuned.
Update 4-16-14: The developer tells an Oregonian reporter that he will adjust his construction plan, so as to eliminate one building to make room for the tree.  If he indeed follows through on this declaration, it is a great improvement to the project and a great outcome.  We will remain cautiously optimistic until we see real paperwork filed with the city.  If Steve does make these project improvements, I think he should be considered a model builder, for his efforts to respect the neighborhood within which he builds.
Update 4-12-14: The developer informs MTNA volunteers that while he is exploring other options, his main focus is on the first proposal.  He still plans to cut the tree and build all 14 units.
Update 4-11-14: At least one local builder specializing in custom designs that can and will work an asset like this significant tree has contacted the developer to explore taking the lot off his hands.
Update 4-10-14: The developer is considering selling the lot to be rid of the public relations headache the tree causes.

History of this Tree:
Various members of the community have been researching the history of this tree, and as snippets of information arrive, I'll are post here.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Tabor Disconnect - Press

April 1, SE Examiner, The Fast Track Reservoir Disconnect
March 1, SE Examiner, Community Neglected in Reservoir Disconnect