Sewer and water rates will rise not nearly as high as expected to pay for upgrades to the Hermiston wastewater treatment plant, the city manager reported Monday.

City water consumers can expect a 14 percent increase phased in over two or three years, City Manager Ed Brookshier told council members Monday. The higher rate may be in place as long as 10 years, he said.

Brookshier said water and sewer rates were expected to increase by 50 percent to pay for plant improvements. The upgrades are expected to be complete in 2014.

“I had our consulting engineer and financial consultant take a very close look at what we’re going to have to do in terms of a rate increase and it appears that we are not going to have to increase rates as much as we projected,” Brookshier said. “We will have financed all of our improvements and many other cities will not have.” 

Projected costs for plant improvements total $27 million and will produce class “A” effluent as opposed to the class “C” effluent the plant produces now. The water will be sent to the West Extension Irrigation District for seven months of the year. 

The city is still defending its decision to send wastewater to the irrigation district instead of LGW Ranch, owned by Lon and Sheri Wadekamper. The Wadekampers used city wastewater to irrigate their pastures for 20 years, but once their contract with the city ended, it was not renewed. 

The city settled with Wadekampers for $400,000 for easements to build a pipeline across their property and pipe wastewater to the West Division Main Canal. 

Brad Bogus, project manager with Tetra Tech in Portland, said sending the water to the irrigation district instead of a single farmer will save money and give the city necessary security to discharge wastewater. The project would cost around $30 million if the city continued to send wastewater to a single farm because storage facilities would have to be built. 

“A benefit of an irrigation district compared to a single farm is the difference in having 700 acres and 9,000 acres and is significant,” Bogus said. 

Al Shewey, Kennedy Jenks consultant, said that by providing effluent to a single farmer, the city may have to store water in the event the farmer must shut down the irrigation system. 

“Total up buying 10 acres, piping and lined ponds — you’re approaching an additional cost of about $7 million,” Shewey said.

Working with a single farmer, the city is still responsible for how wastewater is applied to land; but, with an irrigation district, city responsibility ends when the water is discharged into the canal, Bogus said. 

“That’s one reason we’ve been steadfast ... in that we have to have multiple options of the irrigation district,”?he said. 

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