Prineville plans to sink $1M more into wells

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: February 28. 2007 5:00AM PST

The Prineville City Council unanimously decided Tuesday night to go ahead with plans for two new municipal wells, a month after announcing that three wells dug last year did not produce adequate water.

The city lost about $970,000 on last year’s project, and City Manager Robb Corbett told the council Tuesday that the two new wells will cost just over $1 million.

Councilors grilled a new project consultant, Jeff Barry of Groundwater Solutions, about the plans for the new wells, which would be located near another city well at the Prineville Airport and near the Woodgrain Millwork site on North Main Street.

“Obviously, we’re all a bit nervous after what happened (with the first three wells),” Councilor Gordon Gillespie said.

Corbett said that the new wells should pump between 1,100 and 1,300 more gallons per minute for the city. Prineville currently has eight other working wells.

“Like other infrastructure issues we have with growth, it’s a challenge to keep up (with the water needs),” Corbett said.

Barry said that at its current population, Prineville is already “in the hole” at least 600 gallons per minute in terms of water demand. He added that both wells need to be ready by summer in order to meet peak water needs at that time.

“This is, in my view, only the beginning – this gets you caught up to where you should be,” he said. “We’re looking at a whole number of options for the future water supply.”

Two of the wells the city dug last year did not hit water, while a third brought up some that was not of high enough quality. The city has said it is pursuing legal action to try to recoup some of the costs of that project and is using a different consultant than the one who oversaw the failed wells.

Barry said he has “a high degree of confidence” that the new wells will produce drinking water. The plans include a test well at the North Main Street site and a well to be dug at the airport about 75 feet from a current operating well. One of the three failed wells last year was also located at the airport, but it was about 1,500 feet away from the existing well.

“We’ve been able to get additional information at the existing airport well to determine that that aquifer can support significantly more pumping,” he said.

Councilors expressed some trepidation about not digging a test well at the airport, but Barry said it would cost about $100,000 and he believes that locating the well fairly near the current well improves the chances of success.

“It seems a little foolish to me to not drill a test well when we got burned so badly by not digging test wells (last time),” Councilor Steve Uffelman said.

The council voted unanimously to direct the city manager to move forward with work on the new wells. The project will now go out to a competitive bid process for contractors to drill the wells.

Barry said with the two wells, the city should meet its current level of demand, but as the population continues to grow, the council will have to revisit the water problems.

“It’s not a good idea to rely on all your wells going full tilt with no redundancy,” he said. “At some point we’ll have to come back to that issue.”

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