The Toledo City Council and Georgia Pacific have agreed to partner on water to avert an economic disaster for the local and regional economy. The city will begin selling water as soon as possible to the Georgia Pacific Pulp and Paper Mill, the area’s biggest employer, to prevent the shutdown of the mill because its own supply of water is in danger.
The drought has caused the Olalla Reservoir, the plant’s main water supply for plant operations, to drop dramatically to the point that plant officials say without finding another water supply the plant, would have to shutdown soon.
So the city quickly stepped up and offered to sell GP the water it needs from city supplies, drawn from the Siletz River. GP has no legal access to the Siletz.
GP will pay the same raw water rate to the city of Toledo as does the Seal Rock Water District.
City officials say Toledo has huge water-right access to the Siletz River and that the sale of water to GP will not affect Toledo water customers.
However, Toledo Mayor Billie Jo Smith tells News Lincoln County that Toledo is no different from any other city or county in Oregon in that its water comes from the sky so if the drought continues both the city and GP will be likely working even closer together.
Mayor Smith says the city is working quickly to provide a direct connection between GP and the city’s water supply – funneling raw, untreated water directly to GP. The city’s water treatment process would not be involved.
Mayor Smith says Toledo has a back-up source of water – Mill Creek and its reservoir from which it draws most of its water during the winter when the Siletz River experiences high turbidity due to high water flows.
Mayor Smith also says that this emergency, while a major challenge for GP, is a godsend for the city in that water revenues will climb dramatically, allowing the town to begin expensive analysis of its future water and wastewater needs and to begin prioritizing projects to meet those needs. Prioritization is required before any state or federal grant monies can even be applied for. So it’s a win-win situation, to be sure.
Mayor Smith says the winter rain forecast is very iffy in that the massive El Nino off the west coast of North America is among the largest ever recorded. El Ninos tend to funnel winter moisture straight into California which gets hammered with flood-waters while Oregon and Washington languish with little rain. But she adds that there’s considerable debate among forecasters as to how much rain will fall on the coast. But either way the GP hookup to Toledo’s water system will kick in very shortly, averting an economic disaster for the area.