A small crowd turned up at the northeast edge of Hermiston on Wednesday, to see the site where a water tower will soon stand.

City councilors and county commissioners broke ground on a site at Northeast 10th Street and East Punkin Center Road, where crews will start working on a $4.1 million water storage and system expansion project.

It’s expected to accommodate more than 1,000 new homes in Hermiston in the next 10 years.

The project will be funded by a partnership between the city and Umatilla County, with the county dedicating $2 million over four years. The city will furnish the rest of the costs.

Additionally, the Infrastructure Finance Authority will loan $500,000 to the city and to the county each year, starting in summer of 2020, as part of the two entities’ enterprise zone agreement.

City Manager Byron Smith said they hope construction on the million-gallon water tank will be done by the end of 2019. The project will include installation of about 2 miles of water main, in the neighborhoods of East Theater Lane, between Northeast Fourth and Northeast 10th streets, along Northeast 10th between Theater Lane and Punkin Center Road, and East Punkin Center Road between Northeast Fourth and 10th. The project is expected to be completed in mid-2020.

Hermiston Mayor David Drotzmann said the new water tower will mean Hermiston can accommodate more people, and keep up with overall growth. He said the location of the water tower will make it feasible for developers to build homes on about 300 acres of residential land that previously wouldn’t have had adequate access to water.

“This is about addressing one of the council’s main goals,” he said. “Affordable housing for the community. It’ll allow us to keep employees here in town, recruit people. When we work with our partners at the county and the school district, amazing things can happen.”

Umatilla County Commissioner George Murdock said the city is capitalizing on its location, and its resources.

“In terms of agriculture, we are clearly one of Oregon’s most productive regions,” he said. “We add further value through the kind of partnership we are celebrating here today. Umatilla County is proud to be a partner with the city of Hermiston in a $4 million project that we mutually hope will lead to the construction of a thousand new homes.”

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