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‘May We Always Remember that Water is Essential’

Blog Post
The Water Bureau marked an important construction milestone at Washington Park: the 12.4-million-gallon reservoir that will supply water to the west side of Portland is complete!
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This week, the Water Bureau marked an important construction milestone at Washington Park with a virtual Milestone Ceremony. The 12.4-

million-gallon reservoir that will supply water to the west side of Portland is complete! In addition to building a reservoir constructed to supply water following an earthquake, many event participants saw this project as something more meaningful than a concrete box. They took it as a symbol of persistence and tenacity, despite the many hardships and roadblocks that 2020 has delivered. 

This photograph shows the Washington Park Reservoir construction site. The reservoir itself has been highlighted in blue to make it stand out from the rest of the construction site.
In December 2020, the Water Bureau completed construction of the reservoir at Washington Park, pictured in blue. Work to restore the site will continue through 2025.

“For me, I have a real visceral moment in my mind of when things started moving and lights started flashing and gears started grinding over there. I remember appreciating the commitment that it took for construction to be sort of out front in terms of coming out of lockdown,” said Patricia Schechter, wife of the late Commissioner Fish, who is also a Goose Hollow neighbor. “I, like so many of us, was looking for moments of encouragement that things would go forward, that the city would keep promises and obligations and aspirations for all of its citizens. Thank you for that little moment when I really needed a little waking up and getting in gear again.” 

Another neighbor, Richard Turner, the Arlington Heights Neighborhood Association liaison to the project, shared about his initial skepticism and subsequent change of heart. When he first learned of the project a decade ago, he wondered if his neighborhood could endure long-term disruption from a large construction site in their backyard. He said that outreach for the project has been outstanding from the inception, and that the continued outreach has made him a firm believer in the value of the project. He closed his remarks saying, ”I am so looking forward to the day that I can walk the park and know that I am standing on somewhere over 300-million pounds of steel, concrete, water, soil.  All of the people of Portland owe you a huge thank you and gratitude that they will have safe drinking water for a very long time to come.”

Since planning began in 2010, an amazing team of engineers, construction workers, and community outreach specialists dedicated themselves to reaching this point. This project has spanned more than a decade with several Commissioners and directors at the helm. The common thread has always been that the water our community loves is safe and abundant for generations to come. Virtually hosted by Water Bureau Director Gabe Solmer, the event’s speakers featured former Administrator, Mike Stuhr, Commissioner Amanda Fritz, Patricia Schechter, Engineering Manager Jodie Inman, Hoffman Construction Manager Cary Bubenik, and Arlington Heights neighbor Richard Turner.

A porcelain teacup sits on a table top. The teacup has been painted with a representation of the ironwork that surrounds Washington Park Reservoir and roses. Text says, "Washington Park Reservoir Improvement Project."
Close-up of the tea-cup gifted to the Commissioner in honor of her service.

After viewing a video summarizing work completed to date, participants raised their teacups to toast the leadership of Water Commissioner-in-charge Amanda Fritz, who showed off a gift from the project, a custom-made Washington Park teacup. Commissioner Fritz thanked the Water Bureau, saying, “It has been a pleasure to work knowing that I took part in the Water Bureau’s legacy of careful stewardship of natural resources, infrastructure, and public trust. May we always remember that water is essential.”

Jodie Inman focused her remarks on the skilled staff and valuable partnerships that have made the project possible, saying, “Our water system’s strength lies in the skills, ability, and creativity that our employees, consultants, and contractors bring to work every day. On this project, we’ve worked hard, worked safely, and we’ve adapted.” She also noted that the project has successfully exceeded its total goal of minority and female apprentice and journeyman participants. She ended with a special thank you to Portland Parks and Recreation and to Hoffman Construction.

Hoffman Construction Operations Manager Cary Bubenik noted that the project has been an invigorating challenge, associating the project with the task of constructing a “ship in a bottle” in the middle of Oregon’s most beloved attraction, Washington Park. He thanked neighbors for their patience while construction workers delivered more than 5,000 truckloads to the site, and touted Hoffman’s ability to not miss a single concrete pour, even during a pandemic.

The bureau also presented Patricia Schechter with a framed photograph of Bull Run Lake, commemorating the leadership of Commissioner Fish, who passed away in the past year. Patricia shared her gratitude for this gesture, saying, “I am so grateful to have been included in the milestone ceremony. Thank you for honoring Nick and our family. To witness your continued affection and respect for him helps ease our still very bruised hearts.”

Photograph of Bull Run Lake with Mount Hood towering above. Text below the photograph reads, “Commissioner Nick Fish – City of Portland – In memory of this loyal friend to Portland and his commitment to public service for the greater good.”
Photograph of Bull Run Lake, Portland’s primary water source, that was presented honoring Commissioner Nick Fish. Text below the photograph reads, “Commissioner Nick Fish – City of Portland – In memory of this loyal friend to Portland and his commitment to public service for the greater good.”

Refusing to let COVID-19’s physical distancing restrictions overshadow ceremonial tradition, Gabe presented a bronze plaque that will be permanently installed as part of our finishing work a few years from now and thanked dozens of employees, past and present, and partners, for their contributions.

Content of the plaque to be hung at Washington Park Reservoir reads as follows. City of Portland Water Bureau, Washington Park Reservoir, 12.4-million-gallon covered reservoir. Ted Wheeler, Mayor. Nick Fish, Commissioner. Amanda Fritz, Commissioner. Michael Stuhr, PE, Administrator. Gabriel Solmer, Administrator. Teresa Elliott, PE, Chief Engineer. Stan VandeBergh, P.E., Principal Engineer. Designed by AECOM. Constructed by Hoffman Construction Company. Completed in 2020.
Rendering of the content on the bronze plaque.

Thank you to the project team, and:

  • Hoffman Construction and subcontractors​
  • Jean Lawson and Associates Public Involvement​
  • Cornforth Company, AECOM, West Yost and their subcontractors​

Staff of the following City of Portland Offices and Bureaus:

  • Bureau of Environmental Services 
  • City of Portland Attorney's Office​
  • Portland Parks and Recreation ​
  • City of Portland Procurement

What’s next?

In mid-December, we will begin the first fill of the reservoir, and perform a leak test of the new structure. Later, crews will sanitize and test the reservoir to get it ready to serve water to customers. We will begin serving water from the reservoir in spring 2021. 

Once the reservoir is in service, Hoffman will complete some earthwork and then take a two-year pause on the construction to let the soil surrounding the reservoir settle. After the soil surrounding the reservoir settles, we'll construct beautiful reflecting pools, promenades, public interpretive elements and leave Washington Park better and more publicly accessible than ever before. 

Learn more about the Washington Park Reservoirs Improvement Project here.

Contact

Katy Asher

Senior Communications Specialist

phone number503-865-6054

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

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