Water could face prolonged turbidity

By Ethan Hoagland
Of The New Era/Lebanon Local

Sweet Home’s water quality took a central focus at the city council meeting held Monday, Nov. 13, where Public Works Director Greg Springman said he’s preparing for high turbidity in the water to last through the spring.

“We could literally see these types of turbidities, I feel, into February, March, April,” Springman said during the meeting. On top of the Green Peter drawdown increasing the amount of sediment in the water that feeds into Foster Lake, seasonal rains also contribute to increased turbidity this time of year.

The tailrace at Green Peter Dam releases water full of silt on Nov. 11.

“I’ve been going up to Green Peter, I’ve gone up there several times, I went up there last week and I stood at the upper bridge and watched, you know, four or five feet of silt just falling over and mixing into the stream,” Springman said. “And as long as that sediment is there and that occurs, my professional opinion is every rain event we’re going to have increased turbidities.”

City Manager Kelcey Young said they do expect a decrease in turbidity when the Army Corps of Engineers finishes holding the drawdown at its lowest level on Dec. 15.

“It is expected that the turbidity will decrease for a little while,” she said during the city council meeting. “However, Green Peter has had so much silt and so many landslides and so forth that we are expecting this will last for quite some time.”

When asked by councilor Angelita Sanchez how long the Green Peter Reservoir could take to refill, Young said USACE expects seasonal rain and snow to do the job by Spring.

Water meanders toward Foster Lake, Nov. 11.

Currently, the city is tracking extra costs wracked up by the overtime put in by employees and the strain falling on the water treatment plant. Manager Young previously told The New Era that community members shouldn’t expect to see increased water bills.

At the city council meeting, councilors unanimously passed a resolution that enshrined the city’s dedication to water quality. Part of that resolution included “potential legal action” as the city moves forward with talks between USACE and other agencies.

Among the reasons for the resolution is the impact on local business.

“From some of the businesses we heard from, they’re all reporting about a 10% decrease to what they’re bringing in in lost revenue,” Young said at the meeting. “This is such a beautiful area, it is heartbreaking for all of us to see what is happening here.”

“I have never, ever seen Green Peter as low as it is today,” Councilor Dave Trask said. “That’s really scary to me.”

Councilor Sanchez echoed Trask’s concern, and thanked Springman, Young and city crews for their efforts to ensure safe drinking water.

Muddy water from the court-injunctioned drawdown flows past Lebanon’s old water treatment facility, Nov. 15.

Monday, Nov. 20 the Army Corps of Engineers will have sat down with the community for a town hall at city hall, after the publishing deadline for this edition of the paper.

While the Corps conducted the drawdown of Green Peter Reservoir among others, they were compelled to do so by an injunction from the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. That injunction was ordered after environmental groups Wildearth Guardians, Native Fish Society and Northwest Environmental Defense Center sued over protections for the threatened Chinook and steelhead salmon.