Growth is one of the goals of almost any municipality; keeping up with that growth, especially in public utilities, can be a challenge.

For the City of Hermiston, meeting current needs and planning for future growth has led to a multi-year project: The Hermiston Recycled Water Plant.

A $25 million endeavor, the recycled water project will transform the city's 30-year-old wastewater plant into a facility capable of meeting the city's future water needs while helping the city remain in compliance with tightening restrictions and regulations.

The recycled water facility will discharge Class A water, which officials said looks, smells and acts like drinking water. The current wastewater facility discharges Class C water, which is cloudy, and although disinfected, has some pollutants.

"The trend nationally is to be more strict with where you can apply Class C, if you can apply it all all," senior project engineer Brad Bogus, of Kennedy/Jenks, said Monday night during the Hermiston City Council's regular meeting.

The new system will discharge into the West Extension Irrigation District, an agricultural system with around 1,000 subscribers, in order to bypass discharging into the Umatilla River. To supply water to the irrigation district, however, the city will end its discharge contract with LGW Ranch and transport water from the plant to the WEID canal near Three-Mile Dam. That pipeline will be about 8,000 feet and will cross city property, Bureau of Reclamation land and space on the LGW ranch, owned by the Wadekamper family.

Although the Wadekampers disagree, Bogus said projections show LGW can only handle the city's October discharge for five more years, which is one reason project planners opted to partner with WEID.

"During the hottest parts of the summer, it's pretty easy to get rid of large volumes of water. During the early spring and late fall, it becomes more difficult," Bogus said. "As the city grows, over time the deficit is going to increase ... If you look at the opportunities for longterm - 30 to 50 to 100 years - discharge, you see the benefit of going to a large irrigation district instead of a single farming entity."

Wednesday, Bogus said the city cannot discharge to both entities because they require different permits and regulations.

"To handle the complexity of the city's operation, managing where the water goes would be very difficult, and it would fall under two completely different sets of regulations, which means double monitoring," the engineer said Wednesday. "Discharge to the canal (and the West Extension Irrigation District) will ultimately be under NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit, and when you go to a single user, like LGW, for discharge directly without going to a river source, you're under the recycled water regulations. Instead of managing one program, the city would be monitoring two completely different programs."

Officials have said the WEID partnership is necessary for a federal grant that would save the city - and its taxpayers - $6 million in construction costs. For City Councilman Frank Harkenrider, the impact on taxpayers was the bottom line.

"While the Wadekampers are great people, we can save the taxpayers of Hermiston $6 million," Harkenrider said. "We're elected by the people of Hermiston, and I think this is the way we have to go."

Council unanimously approved a resolution to acquire the rights-of-way during Monday's meeting.

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