SEAL ROCK — The Seal Rock Water District (SRWD) encompasses 12.5 square miles stretching from the Bayshore housing subdivision just north of Alsea Bay to just beyond the Newport Municipal Airport.
The district has long relied on water rights from the Siletz River, the water traveling 10 miles through a pipe along Yaquina Bay Road from Toledo. The water district’s general manager, Adam Denlinger, noted the transmission pipe passes through tsunami inundation zones and areas prone to landslides and flooding.
“In recent years, the system has failed several times,” he said, “requiring costly emergency responses to restore service. In the event of a Cascade Subduction Zone earthquake, this water source would cease to be available to Seal Rock.”
Citing how critical a resilient infrastructure is for the health, safety and economic vitality of a community, Denlinger pointed out it is often difficult for small, rural towns to afford.
“We began the process by engaging stakeholders,” Denlinger said. A consultant performed a source water study with an effort made to look at sources of water available within the district’s boundaries.
“Trying to design a new water source is as daunting as it is complex,” Denlinger said, determining water rights are only a part of the major effort required to establish a new water source that is resilient and able to recover from a mega-thrust earthquake.
It was determined that the most favorable solution was to develop the district’s own water supply from Beaver Creek, for which the district received water withdrawal authorization in 2016, explained Denlinger.
The development of an independent water source in Seal Rock is a direct environmental benefit to the region, said Denlinger. He noted that the district’s current water rights will revert back to “in stream use,” or back to river, removing some stress from the Siletz River.
“With the help of a $9,096,000 loan and a $2,799,500 grant from USDA’s Water and Waste Disposal Program, as well as $3,481,000 from the State of Oregon, the SRWD will install an intake system on Beaver Creek and construct a plant that uses membrane filtration to treat the water (to be located above the tsunami impact zone),” Denlinger detailed.
The district will build a 500,000-gallon reservoir for water storage, install a raw water pipeline and include backup generators, so that an electrical outage will not impact service. Denlinger noted that the facilities are designed to promote rapid recovery after a natural disaster following Oregon’s Resiliency Plan.
“One important issue that SRWD and our board of commissioners have placed high on the priority list is the implementation of our state-approved water management and conservation plan,” Denlinger added. “The district decided to upgrade to an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system, also known as a smart water grid system.”
Denlinger said in a partnership with district customers, “we’ve reduced our water loss from 27 percent to 10 percent. More importantly, we have reduced our demand on our source water by 25 percent. We’re using 25 percent less water today than we were five years ago, despite growing 7 percent in that time period.
“We’re seeing tremendous benefits and results from using technology to help us manage our system,” he revealed, stressing the importance of proper water management.
“Protecting the environment is everyone’s responsibility and something the SRWD board of commissioners takes seriously,” Denlinger added, before concluding, “Water is a precious resource, and using new, innovative technology … ensures this precious resource remains sustainable and available for future generations.”
Sealed bids for construction of Beaver Creek Water Supply Project were received until 2 p.m. Feb. 18.
“We are probably about a year away from having our own water supply,” Denlinger estimated.