SHADY COVE — For the third time in 21 years, Shady Cove voters have said "no" to a water system.

SHADY COVE — For the third time in 21 years, Shady Cove voters have said "no" to a water system.

Early returns showed Measure 15-118 going down to defeat, with 758 votes against and 399 in support — or 65.5 percent to 34.5 percent.

The measure would have authorized the city to spend up to $23 million in general obligation bonds to construct a water network to serve the entire city, the largest in Oregon without a municipal water system.

"That expresses the will of the people," said Mayor Ron Holthusen. "They made the choice they thought was best. We looked down the road and decided this was the time to give it another try, because things like low-interest loans and government grants may not be there in the future. So, now all we can do is move forward into the future and see what happens."

"That's not very good news," said a shocked and saddened Marianne Wolf. "If we can't get water, we're going to lose our house. It's pretty sad for us."

Wolf, her husband, Clay, and their three children moved into a northwest Shady Cove neighborhood about eight years ago. After a few years, their "good" well went dry. They drilled another, but it, too, is dry.

Tuesday night's vote is the culmination of the latest water campaign that began in mid-2010, when the City Council received a $20,000 state grant to update its water distribution master plan.

The city created a volunteer citizen water task force that met weekly for over a-year-and-a-half. Five community meetings were conducted this fall to allow residents to see the planned water system and ask questions before voting.

Bonding for a water system was rejected by voters twice before, most recently in 1999 by 100 votes. Since the first water election in 1991, the estimated cost of a municipal system has risen 460 percent, from $5 million to $23 million.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at