ASHLAND — The City Council has approved the first step in expediting the construction of the final leg of the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix water line to bring water to town in case of drought this summer.
On Tuesday night, the council unanimously authorized an emergency procurement of engineering services for the project, sidestepping standard bidding procedures for design work.
The city will contact four to five engineering firms about the project, city staff said.
Under an expedited schedule, the water line — also known as TAP — could be finished in August or September, staff said. It would provide water to Ashland from the Medford Water Commission, which is Medford's water source and provides water to numerous other cities in the valley.
"If it's done in August, that would be fantastic," Councilor Rich Rosenthal said.
Earlier plans called for building the water line in 2015.
The pipeline project is estimated to cost $2 million to $2.3 million, staff said.
The pipeline already stretches from Medford to Talent.
When extended to Ashland, it would be able to provide 1.5 million gallons of water per day for emergency use, supplementing Ashland's regular water supply that comes from the Ashland watershed. The TAP line could provide as much as 3 million gallons of water per day if necessary, city staff said.
Ashland also treats Talent Irrigation District water to use as potable water when Ashland watershed supplies run low.
In years past, city officials debated building the TAP line to provide regular supplemental water for Ashland, but have balked at the cost.
However, a water master plan recommended by the Ashland Water Advisory Committee and approved by City Council in 2012 calls for using the TAP line only for emergencies.
The full costs of having a TAP line to provide supplemental water on a regular basis would have been $12 million, according to 2012 estimates.