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TAP master water plan gets scrutiny

Metal tap and water drop close up

Water demand for the three cities that use the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix water system is projected to grow by 65% on maximum demand days over the next 50 years, while costs to build new infrastructure is estimated to be as much as $17 million during that period, according to a recently prepared water master plan for the operation.

Talent City Council is considering adoption of the plan. Phoenix has already adopted the plan, which was prepared by RH2 Engineering. The document is the first master plan created for the system.

Ashland is waiting to see how Talent responds to the plan, which includes two options on how TAP water may flow through the latter city to Ashland. Talent’s booster pump station and piping currently are unable to provide Talent’s maximum day demands and Ashland’s supply concurrently.

Ashland City Council will likely look at adopting the master plan in late winter or spring of 2022, said Ashland Public Works Director Scott Fleury.

“I requested that the Talent City Council look into the TAP master plan’s two improvement options that have direct ties between Talent and the city of Ashland that need to be vetted,” said Fleury. “It would be better for the city of Ashland to know the direction that the Talent City Council would like to go as to how we commingle on TAP infrastructure.”

The three cities created the system in the late 1900’s, although Ashland did not hook up to the supply until 2014. The cities all have water rights from the Rogue River and the water is treated and delivered by the Medford Water Commission to a pump station in southern Medford which feeds a line running to the south valley towns.

“It’s really been fortunate enough to this point in the lifetime of the system there’s been limited needs for expansion and for maintenance,” said Jeff Ballard with RH2, during a presentation to Talent City Council Dec. 1. “Over the next time horizon of 40 years that will change as the system gets older and the cities expand.”

Talent City Council decided to hold a study session on the plan and its adoption. A time and date for the session have not yet been determined.

“I want to make sure we are making the best decisions for Talent. I cut my teeth in the city government around water,” said Mayor Darby Ayers-Food. “It was a great investment from the beginning. I want to make sure we are good stewards of those early decisions.”

The first option would have Talent expand its booster pump station to meet the needs for both cities. The second option would have Ashland build its own booster pump station in Talent and install a separate pipe to move the water. Under either scenario, Talent would need to increase its booster pump capacity.

Cost for all system improvements with the second option is estimated at $17,140,000 compared to $15,130,000 for the first option, which has the work spread out over a longer period of time.

Besides the Ashland-Talent issue, the regional booster pump station on Samike Drive and transmission piping do not have adequate capacity to provide the anticipated demands by 2030. Several alternatives in the plan were evaluated to address the capacity limitations.

Phoenix would also have some capital improvement projects, the plans report. The city should begin development of a new water supply in the North Phoenix Road area, which is projected for development, by about 2030. In addition, a more powerful pump should be installed at the regional booster pump station that is under Phoenix oversight.

Another suggestion is that the system be upgraded to allow Ashland to supply Talent and Phoenix during non-peak supply periods. Ashland has water available form Reeder Reservoir above town.

Creation of a new intergovernmental agreement on management and construction of TAP facilities is also recommended in the plan. The original agreement was signed in October 2000. There has been amendments, addendums and other agreements among the parties and with the Medford Water Commission since the initial document was approved.

Financial analysis for the plan was prepared by Hansford Economic Consulting, LLC. The firm developed a cost-sharing methodology that assigns cost of all capital projects to the benefiting partner cities based on capacity share and industry methodologies.

“It’s important that we have a master plan that we have all adopted so that when we apply for grants, we can show that we have a plan,” said Eric Swanson, Phoenix city manager. “There’s a lot of reasons why it’s important as we work together, especially with this (federal) infrastructure bill money coming up.”

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