The upgrade of Hermiston's aging wastewater treatment plant isn't getting any less complicated.

But if the city is able to secure federal or state funding sources to help pay for it - a big if, said City Manager Ed Brookshier - the project might become less expensive for local ratepayers.

Brad Bogus and Al Shewey, two representatives from Kennedy/Jenks Consultants, presented the Hermiston City Council with a few possible options Monday night, including Oregon's regular state revolving loan fund, and extra dollars from the federal stimulus package signed into law by President Obama last month.

The SRF normally allocates $40 million to $50 million to the state Department of Environmental Quality to distribute each year, Shewey said. The federal stimulus will give another $44 million to DEQ this year, creating two pools of funding.

Hermiston has already applied for consideration for stimulus dollars, which offers any city no more than $5 million. But Shewey and Bogus noted the application process for that funding is extremely competitive. The DEQ has already received dozens of applications totaling almost $310 million from across the state for SRF money, all going after just $44 million available.

Hermiston's setting presents a unique situation, Shewey said. The wastewater facility, which discharges into the Umatilla River, sits three miles upstream from a dam, and just as close to a fish capture facility. Those factors make water pollutants an even higher priority for Hermiston, especially with nearby tribal populations who rely so heavily on fish from those waters, he said.

"When you look at Hermiston's location ... your treatment plant has to anticipate the need to treat at an extremely high level," Shewey said, adding that complexity "really puts you in a different class, in my opinion."

Said Brookshier: "And that's an understatement."

The wastewater treatment plant upgrade was recently estimated to cost just over $20 million. To be eligible for many of these funding sources, it must break ground by next February.

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