Lakeview’s Aging Water Infrastructure
Lakeview, Oregon, April 17, 2023 – If you reside in Lakeview, Oregon you are aware of the water situation. It isn’t a secret. In areas of town, it can be light brown to dark brown and it may or may not have a bad odor. The town’s water supply suffers from heightened levels of iron and manganese.
Across rural America, small community water systems are failing due to aging infrastructure. According to the American Bar Association, there are nearly 60 thousand community water systems in the United States and 93 percent of them serve populations of fewer than 10,000 people—67 percent serve populations of fewer than 500 people. These failing systems were more likely to occur in rural areas, where towns frequently struggle to obtain funding to maintain their systems.
Lakeview water supply systems were designed and built decades ago, and old systems are susceptible to a variety of failures. The costs of compliance can be huge.
In September 2021, the Town secured $15 million in project funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) program for the completion of a water treatment facility to address the iron and manganese issue.
Since receiving this award, our public works staff has uncovered corroding pipes and infrastructure that have been neglected and overlooked. The town’s water infrastructure is severe, especially since essential maintenance has been deferred for over 20 years. When our infrastructure fails, and it will, the implications will be devastating for our citizens, property, and operations.
The new water treatment facility will purify our water but travel through town and residential pipes. This may still cause problems in places with deteriorating pipelines. The Town is attempting to solve an incredibly costly problem which is typically paid for by utility rates charged to individual users. However, our utility rates are so low they barely pay for day-to-day operations.
Infrastructure is expensive, we anticipate that replacing the water pipes in Lakeview will cost $48 million, or $1 million per mile of pipe. This cost is roughly $19,401 per resident, which is a substantial burden in a town with a median household income of $49,359. In addition, this estimated cost does not address the homeowner’s responsibility. Homeowners are responsible for the pipelines on their property which are also aging and most likely in need of replacement.
The Biden-Harris Administration announced nearly $585 million from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to repair aging water infrastructure and advance drought resilience. Funding will be provided to 83 projects in 11 states to increase drought resilience, improve water conveyance and storage, increase safety, improve hydropower generation, and provide water treatment.
The Town of Lakeview has respectfully asked for $30,000,000 from our Oregon Representatives, Senators, Congress, and President Biden to give Lakeview the funding infusion it needs to solve the systemic and widespread problem of our failing water infrastructure.
The Town cannot financially submit for loans in the amount needed, nor can we raise the water bills to support loan payments that citizens can afford. State and Federal grant funding is needed to invest in Lakeview’s water system, which is essential for residents’ access to clean drinking water, hygiene, and sanitation.
On April 12, 2023, Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden stated that they had chosen where the funds would be allocated. They announced Oregon will be receiving $21,713,000 from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for projects to improve water infrastructure in Jefferson, Klamath, Umatilla, and Wasco Counties. Lakeview’s request was not included.
The Town of Lakeview is going to keep exploring solutions to address the deteriorating water infrastructure. The Town Manager, Michele Parry, brought Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) to Lakeview and conducted an interview. She is hopeful that our story reaches those who may assist us with our deteriorating water infrastructure. We urge you to contact us with letters of support and any recommendations you may have or write to Representative Mark Owens (Rep.MarkOwens@oregonlegislature.gov) and Senator Findley (Sen.LynnFindley@oregonlegislature.gov) – 900 Court St. NE, H-475, Salem, Oregon 97301. Let us get together as a community to resolve these challenges. We invite and encourage you to attend our next Town Hall Public Information Meeting on May 9, 2023, at 5:30 p.m. at the Lake County Fairgrounds.