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The Latest Reservoir News


On May 28th, City Council heard the Appeals Case for the Historic Landmarks Commission’s ruling regarding the Mt Tabor Disconnection Project. 

As many of your know, the Historic Landmarks Commission’s (HLC) recent ruling regarding the Mt. Tabor Disconnection Project was for Approval With Strong Conditions. The more protections that are put in place to preserve Mt Tabor park and its reservoirs, the greater the chances of reconnecting them for future use if/when the EPA changes its LT2 ruling in 2016. 

The Portland Water Bureau (PWB) has opted to appeal two of these conditions:

1. Condition B - This condition states that, following disconnection, the reservoirs must continue to hold water within the normal historic operating range, that they must be maintained and cleaned, and that they can only be emptied (partially or fully) for brief periods of time not to exceed 60 days total (either consecutive or non-consecutive) within a calendar year. PWB is stating that this generous maximum of two months out of every year is operationally unworkable and that there should be no limit; they want it left entirely up to them to decide how often and how long they want to let the reservoirs sit without water.

2. Condition E - This condition states that the City must fully implement the short- and long-term restorative recommendations contained in the May 2009 Mt Tabor Reservoirs Historic Structures Report. This work carries a rough price tag of $1.5 million in 2009 dollars, <$200,000 of which has already been spent. PWB asserts that this condition is beyond the scope of the project and its impacts. 

For both conditions, PWB cites the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office’s (SHPO) finding of “no adverse effects” from this project on the historic nature of this park. This is very misleading as PWB has conveniently cut off the remainder of that statement, which emphasizes that the finding of No Adverse Effect was clearly contingent upon the reservoirs being maintained with water in them at normal historic operating depths, draining them only for brief routine maintenance. SHPO’s further reiteration of this statement can been seen in a recent letter found here:

In turn, the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood Association (MTNA) has also filed an appeal of this ruling. MTNA’s appeal is not seeking to overturn or reverse the HLC’s ruling. MTNA is requesting from City Council the following:

1. Deny PWB’s challenge to conditions B & E, as described above. 
2. Correct the “scrivener’s error” in condition B which states the historic fill levels to be 50-75%, replace with the correct figures of 65-85% and to revise the language to read “the normal historic operation range producing iconic views." 
3. Limit the timeline of Condition E’s preservation work so as to be concurrent with the timeline of the other construction projects at Mt Tabor, thus minimizing the disruption to park users and the surrounding neighborhoods. 
4. Strengthen the HLC’s efforts to protect the Mt Tabor assets by requiring PWB to, within 1 year, craft a written, long-range preservation plan (including budget) in concert with SHPO and under a Design Advice Review with the HLC, to be formally adopted by Council.
5. Direct PWB to file for a Conditional Use Review before proceeding further.

What can you do to help?

1. PLEASE WRITE AND/OR CALL the Mayor and City Council Members to let them know that you support the HLC’s ruling and the tenets put forth in the MTNA’s appeal, as well as that you disapprove of the larger disconnect in the first place.


Mayor Charlie Hales:, 503-823-4120
Chief of Staff Noah Siegel,

Commissioner Nick Fish:, 503-823-3589
Chief of Staff Sonia Schamanski,

Commissioner Amanda Fritz:, 503-823-3008
Chief of Staff Patti Howard,

Commissioner Steve Novick:, 503-823-4682
Chief of Staff Chris Warner:

Commissioner Dan Saltzman:, 503-823-4151
Chief of Staff


2. Provide written testimony to City Council by 5:00 p.m. on June 11th. email your comments to: or send via snail mail to: Council Clerk, 1221 SW 4th Ave, Rooml 130, Portland, OR 97204.

3. DONATE! - Please consider donating today to support this appeal effort. Attorneys are expensive, but necessary, and we need to prepare to take this to the State Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). Your DONATIONS ARE TAX DEDUCTIBLE. Please make checks payable to “SE Uplift” and include “MTNA-reserviors” in the memo line and mail to: SE Uplift, 3534 SE Main St, Portland, OR, 97214.

We also want to point out the clear disparities between the City's approach to Mt. Tabor Park (where they are balking at $1.5 million of restoration), and their approach to Washington Park, where they have gone through over 2 years of engaging professional design consultants and the HLC’s review all along the way, and have earmarked $74 million for restoration and future use preservation. It’s a Tale of Two Neighborhoods. Which one has wealthier political donors? Hmmm…..

The more protections that are put in place to preserve Mt. Tabor park and its reservoirs, the greater the chances of reconnecting them for future use if/when the EPA changes its LT2 ruling in 2016. As you know, PWB is racing to complete this project before that date, sidestepping multiple city rules and policies in the process as they recognize Mt Tabor represents a keystone in the disconnection efforts, and if this does not get completed prior to the EPA’s revised LT2 ruling in 2016, all those multi-million dollar corporate contracts and projects could be lost.

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