The long awaited phone call from National Marine Fisheries came at Toledo City Hall this afternoon and the news was all good. The biological assessment report has been filed and a permit to proceed on the town’s new water intake on the Siletz River has been issued.
The permit was passed along to the Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Toledo can now begin replacing its drinking water intake facility just downstream from the Siletz Bridge.
The permit was expected last MAY but there were delays after delays in completing the biological assessment on the impacts that the water intake facility might have on the river’s aquatic ecology, including migrating fish. The city reasoned that the new facility would be pumping the same amount of water because the water rights are fixed and the site was just slightly downstream from the old site. So where’s the problem?
In response the National Marine Fisheries Commission claimed the delays were due to an overall work schedule that overwhelmed their staff and they could not process their work fast enough, including Toledo’s biological assessment. But Toledo’s back was up against an immovable requirement that they get all their work done in a set amount of time. And with a two month delay in their start of construction, the city is hoping that there aren’t any delays associated with the new intake facility construction. At this point, it needs to go up pretty near to perfect. If the city doesn’t get the job done on time, the bond holders have an option to fine the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties.
So, the city is pulling out all the stops to get the project underway. The contractor, who expected to start the job in May, is still poised to get going at the drop of a water bucket. City Manager Don Munckers said “There’s just barely enough time to get the ‘in-the-river’ water work done and then get out. It would have been a lot easier had we received our permit on time, two months ago.”
Toledo’s water intake facility at the Siletz River is on its last legs according to Munckers. And it serves a lot more than Toledo. It’s also the source of water for all of Seal Rock which buys its water wholesale from Toledo. It’s delivered through a very long pipe between Toledo and Seal Rock.