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South valley water tie under study

Nearly 20-year-old mutual agreements and procedures that bring water to Talent, Ashland and Phoenix will come under scrutiny as the three communities begin formulation of a water master plan for TAP, the system that conveys water to the cities.

“I think we just really want to define the TAP system to move forward with an (inter-governmental agreement). We want something that is a little more robust,” said Scott Fleury, city of Ashland deputy public works director. Ashland will administer the contract with the firm creating the plan, but the three cities will divide the $140,476 cost evenly.

TAP has operated with inter-governmental agreements and without a master plan, said Fleury. Each city operates its portions of the system, which includes pipelines, pumping stations and reservoirs with water coming from the Medford Water Commission.

RH2 Engineering, which has a local office, was chosen to work with the partners on the proposed plan, which would need to be adopted by each city. New inter-governmental agreements will then be created as current ones expire in a couple of years. RH2 or its predecessor firms have been involved with TAP since it was started. RH2 has also recently completed water master plans for each city.

Participant representatives met with RH2 Engineering earlier this month to kick off the effort, and data is being collected. Work on the draft master plan should be finished by August 2020.

TAP was formed in 2000 to provide water to Phoenix and Talent, which was then under a building moratorium as it lacked water resources for growth. Ashland at the time paid to upgrade the size of the line to accommodate hookup at a later date. Connections to Phoenix and Talent were completed in 2002. Ashland hooked up to the system in 2014 and will use it only for emergency purposes to supplement its existing system.

“My impression is that (the plan) is to look at how this is working and what our long-term concerns are going to be, and to all be on the same page and going forward,” said Sandy Spelliscy, Talent city manager.

A major issue will be capital fund planning, said Spelliscy. There is no capital plan attached to the TAP agreements, with each municipality arranging its own funding to finance improvements. Costs of improvements have been shared between the entities.

“Everything is operating well. When you get to pump stations, as you move into the future, you look at life cycle replacement as based on industry standards,” said Fleury.

Among issues specified for investigation with RH2 are sharing of system information among the municipalities to optimize operations, pumping water from Ashland to Talent in the event of an emergency, and potential water system changes in Phoenix.

Gravity flow could take water from Ashland and send it to Talent, but impacts from that to the Talent water system need to be studied before it could be done, said Fleury.

“We just don’t know how that will currently react with their system, That’s something that the study models will tell us,” said Fleury, A trickle amount is sent through the system now between Talent and Ashland to keep water moving for pipe health, but it’s nowhere near the scale that would be needed to supply water to Talent in an emergency, Fleury said.

Monitoring systems are in place to check flows and determine when reservoirs in the communities can be filled, but greater sharing of data is a possibility.

“Each community has its own systems that have been set up over the years,” said Fleury. Discussion will take place on what sort of data the other towns should see to help determine how each operation relates to the TAP system.

For Phoenix, the study will look at the possible impacts of adding the Charlotte Ann Water District into the city system and perhaps building a second pumping station to move Medford Water Commission water into the system. Both proposals are in the talking stages, said City Manager Aaron Prunty. Agreements with the Medford Water Commission will also be examined as part of the study.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.