Putting sewer controversy in the past

Putting sewer controversy in the past

Overview

Clackamas County Service District #1, governed by the County and managed by Water Environment Services (WES), came to a dead end in 2007 in its effort to increase sewage treatment capacity. A group of well-organized citizens had stopped a proposed regional plan, leaving the community divided and deeply suspicious of the county commission.

Challenge:

All the proposed options were expensive – demanding significant increases in sewer rates. And, Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality threatened to impose controls on development if new capacity was not built.

CFM was retained to help the county re-start the public dialogue about wastewater treatment investments and to work with county leadership, creating a regional agreement about how to move forward. The ultimate goal was to build a major sewage plant to meet the District’s needs for 15 years.

Approach

CFM fielded two telephone surveys to assess customer values and concerns. Next, CFM and WES staff created a stand-alone issues-only website – www.Riverhealth.org – and launched the county’s first e-newsletter targeting opinion leaders. At the same time, CFM reached out to activist citizens who opposed recent county wastewater decisions. A new citizens’ advisory committee was started. CFM also developed a two-step strategy to build a long-term regional agreement.

Results

A new state-of-the-art, $130 million wastewater plant will be opened in Oregon City in early 2011, successfully financed through long-term bonds supported by hefty rate increases for District customers. Once-hostile citizen activists are satisfied the County Commission listens to their opinions and it has made the best decisions possible. A regional advisory committee is looking to the future and the County Board has demonstrated its ability to provide strong and decisive leadership.