Restarting a Stalled Water Project


Lake Oswego and Tigard: Restarting a Stalled Water Project

Lake Oswego and Tigard formed an innovative partnership to meet their future water needs through an expansion of Lake Oswego’s existing water infrastructure, which included a treatment plant located in West Linn. But the project encountered stiff heads winds and was stalled. CFM urged a pause to allow time for re-engaging the communities most impacted, addressing concerns and modifying the water treatment plan design. It worked.


To move forward, the project depended on gaining land use and environmental permits from Gladstone, West Linn and multiple state and federal agencies. Planners and engineers did their work. Community outreach went according to plan. But when the proposed water intake, pipelines and plant came into focus before the West Linn Planning Commission, opponents gained the upper hand.


CFM partner Norm Eder worked closely with project managers and their legal team to suggest a pause in the land use process to the planning commission to address concerns about the project. The planning commission agreed. For the next four months efforts were made to meet the demands of opponents through a wide variety of approaches, ranging from independent mediation to design modifications and one-one discussions. The fiercest opponents, however, were not satisfied but project leaders were gained by being perceived as reasonable, flexible and willing to meet opponents’ objections more than halfway.

The project partners returned to the planning commission where its land use application was denied. CFM and project leaders then turned their attention to an appeal of the decision to West Linn’s City Council. Assisted by CFM, the partnership developed its appeal and built broad community understanding of the importance of the project for West Linn citizens, focusing on savings and the importance of backup water supply. Opponents doubled down on their grassroots efforts. They launched a mass petition drive, wrote weekly angry commentary in the local paper, posted lawn signs and pressured local merchants and City Council members to oppose the project.


The City Council ultimately voted 4-0 to reverse the decision of its planning commission. The council noted the Partnership had demonstrated good faith in addressing opponent concerns and built a strong case based on West Linn’s needs and code requirements.

But the story did not end there. Opponents took aim at slowing or stopping two necessary ingredients of the project. The Partnership needed an easement to construct a pipeline by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The project also needed a Corps of Engineers permit to improve the fresh water intake on the Clackamas River. CFM helped mobilize project supporters in Salem and Washington, DC to secure the easement and all environmental permits in a timely fashion.

Construction began in July 2013 and, once complete, it will become an important part of the Portland area’s water infrastructure.