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Salem helps Whispering Pines get water

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneSteve Taylor, who was fighting to get water for his Whispering Pines mobile park that was destroyed during the Almeda Fire in Phoenix, said that a state decision could get water to the homes within a couple of months.

A plea for water from a mobile home park partially destroyed by the Almeda fire has been heard in Salem.

Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, backed House Bill 3126, which was written with an eye to resolving water woes at Whispering Pines Mobile Home Park.

“People are very anxious to help out,” said Marsh. “This bill basically cuts through the bureaucracy.”

The legislation, approved by the House and Senate, goes to Gov. Kate Brown’s desk for signing.

The bill takes effect immediately upon passage.

Marsh said the House bill requires a wildfire emergency and allows a property whose water quality or quantity was affected by the disaster to tap into a water district.

Under the old statute, a property owner would have to go through a long process with the Oregon Health Authority.

“We just want to cut out the OHA process,” Marsh said. At the same time, she said there are enough safeguards in the bill to make sure it is used properly.

Once the bill is enacted, Jackson County commissioners could approve the inclusion of the mobile home park in the water district.

The commissioners previously voted in support of annexation of the mobile home park into the Charlotte Ann Water District because of ongoing health concerns about water quality.

Whispering Pines Mobile Home Park, on the outskirts of Medford and Phoenix, is home to people 55 and older.

On Sept. 8, 2020, fire destroyed 46 of the 63 homes in the park just south of Medford.

Three of the six wells were destroyed, preventing the rebuilding of the community, and leaving insufficient water for the remaining residents.

“I’m hoping within two months we’re hooked up and we’re off the wells,” said Steve Taylor, who owns the park with his wife, Cindy. “I’m ready to go as soon as somebody says it’s OK.”

The Taylors own both the Whispering Pines and neighboring Bel Air mobile home parks.

Taylor said there is inadequate water coming out of the ground to supply all 63 residents.

Whispering Pines sits just outside the urban growth boundary of both Medford and Phoenix, and the Charlotte Ann Water District is the nearest municipal provider of water, with one of its pipes 15 feet from the park’s property line.

Taylor is hopeful that he might qualify for some state grants that could offset the cost of the new water hookups to the site.

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.