The News Guard
City Manager David Hawker said he hopes the bypass will be back in service by late Friday, Sept. 16, or early Saturday, Sept. 17, – after which, he said, the risk will disappear.
Until then, Hawker said, residents should refrain from stockpiling water, warning that such behavior could cause the situation to escalate “from a worry to a catastrophe.”
“There’s only two things that I can see that can really hurt us,” he said. “One is main break and two is stockpiling.”
Hawker said stockpiling could cause the system to run dry, leaving the community without water for weeks as pipes are repaired and decontaminated.
The bypass, which was installed in the wake of the January landslide on Schooner Creek Road, was taken out of service when the Oregon Department of Transportation began reconstruction work on the road in late August.
Its removal left the community reliant on a recently constructed alternate water main beneath Drift Creek Road.
Hawker said it became clear on the morning of Thursday, Sept. 15, that the system could not keep up with demand without the bypass in place.
He said the fact that the alternate route feeds in to an old, 10-inch water main near Cutler City means it has only been able to supply 1,500 gallons per minute rather than the 1,600 predicted by computer models.
The City had been dipping into its reservoirs in order to even out spikes in water demand and running its water treatment plant 24 hours a day in order to keep its reservoirs topped up.
“Our water treatment supervisor came to me,” Hawker said. “He told me ‘we are not keeping up.'”
Hawker said the City has taken various steps to reduce water demand until the bypass is replaced, including delaying the refilling of the community center pool; shutting off private irrigation-only accounts, including the Chinook Winds Golf Course; and shutting off the leaky water main that serves eight households along Schooner Creek Road.
“We are hauling water to the customers,” he said. “As soon as the bypass is installed, all of the restrictions will be lifted.”
Hawker said the City also asked North Lincoln Fire & Rescue District #1 to refrain from doing any water training – a move he said appears to have been a mistake because the district “immediately made that public.”
“We can’t ever tell people to do anything that will help the situation,” he said, “because they are going to make it worse.”
NLFR Capt. Jim Kusz said the District paged its members to tell them not to use water in any of their drills.
“There’s lots of drills that we can do without water,” Kusz said, “so it really doesn’t affect us at all.”
“If there is a fire scenario, we will utilize water as much as we always do,” he added.
Hawker said the potential that any request to limit water use might cause panic and stockpiling could mean that the City would choose a different tactic in future.
“Water conservation may not be an answer and this may prove that,” he said. “It may be that we have to just shut customers off.”
Hawker said the prospect of more high-demand days due to upcoming events and potentially sunny weather caused him to authorize the reinstallation of the bypass as soon as possible.
The bypass pipe will be reinstalled along the bottom of ODOT’s excavated site at Schooner Creek Road, meaning the pipe will be buried as the project proceeds and permanently lost.
Hawker said the pipe’s $12,000 value combined with labor costs will bring the cost of the project to about $25,000, for which the City will seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.