Agendas and Minutes

City Council (View All)

Study Session

Wednesday, March 22, 2000

March 22, 2000
Council Chambers, 1175 E Main

Mayor Shaw called the meeting to order at 12:04 p.m.

Councilors Laws, Reid, Hauck, Hanson, Wheeldon and Fine were present. Staff present: City Administrator Mike Freeman and Public Works Director Paula Brown.


Public Works Director Paula Brown explained what she believes to be the next step in the WWTP process, as outlined in her memorandum to Council. Explained that she has sent letters to Carollo to have them begin looking at possible modification to the off-site spraying plan, and to Medford Public Works Director and Bear Creek Valley Sanitary Authority (BCVSA) to determine the costs for hookups to the regional wastewater treatment facility in Medford.

Discussed the items directed to Carollo Engineers: a) redesign the sprinkler heads for lower pressures, decreasing the radius and trajectories, increasing the number of sprinklers, and calculate the full costs to include maintenance for the increased heads; b) evaluate the droplet migration for the revised sprinkler head design; c) evaluate the potential for poplar tree plantations; d) provide a professional technical opinion on the temperature issue that the City would face with discharging directly to the creek; e) revise cost estimates for tertiary treatment and phosphorous removal and temperature reduction costs; f) evaluate the phosphorous standards set by the TMDLs and DEQ, and the possibility to challenge these standards; g) evaluate the electro-coagulation options; and h) complete bio-solids options, including the current plan, moving to meet the Class A standards and what does that mean for operations, on-site bio-solids options, and developing costs for each.

Noted that she had already sent a letter to DEQ, and stated that no response has been received yet. Explained that the DEQ had not explained any issues relative to temperature for discharge into the creek, as the City's permit is based on completion of on-site process improvements and summertime off-site irrigation. As such, there is no temperature set to allow discharge into the creek and the city will need to go through a permit process to modify the existing permit. Noted that she has requested further information from DEQ relative to health concerns, temperature, phosphorous, electro-coagulation, and bio-solids options.

Noted that staff is continuing to work with the Oregon Health Division to address their concerns regarding aerosol production and mitigation with changes in the sprinkler system or direct application modifications in design.

Explained that the letters sent to Medford and BCVSA was similar, and dealt with capabilities, SDCs and rate bases. Discussed piping requirements, and noted that BCVSA was asked to verify their ability to transport an average of 2.25 mgd and to provide their SDCs and flow-based costs.

Explained that the contract with Cascade Earth Science (CES) on the Wetlands Demonstration Project was extended until April 1, and noted that further information will be brought back to council in April relative to meeting the .08.

Brown explained that she is dealing with the City Attorney to address the land use permit(s) with the County. Also, noted meeting with Water Watch and the Oregon Department of Water Resources in the last two weeks. Emphasized that DEQ will want answers as to what the City intends to do by the first week in June. Proposed a rigorous schedule to meet and discuss each and every option that must be addressed. Suggested that Council ask any questions or provide any redirection or additions, and she will bring back updates weekly or biweekly, as desired.

Councilor Fine asked whether Brown found it realistic to expect her to provide information two to three weeks prior to a mid-June decision, with the intention being to allow for a large-scale community forum. Explained that his hopes were to have a two-to-three hour program, with a staff presentation followed by a two-way discussion between staff and the community. Brown stated that this seemed feasible, and emphasized that she wanted to ensure that Council has all the information in one piece, as this is a large project and a very short time frame.

Fine questioned whether small neighborhood forums would be possible. Shaw expressed concerns given the time frame, and noted that the budget process is occurring and the availability of space for forums is also limited by the time constraints.

Brown explained for Councilor Wheeldon that the wetlands project was difficult due to the multiple projects that were taking place at the same time and the weather conditions which contributed to the "down time" that was experienced.

Brown emphasized that the information that has been provided from members of the community is valuable data, but stated that she is unsure how it fits into the whole picture. She stated that the DEQ may not accept the data and would likely require that data be collected through other methods, on their approval. Brown suggested and council agreed that the data should be challenged. She emphasized that they might be willing to collect further data, at city expense, but that this is purely speculative, and that the DEQ may allow the challenge to TMDLs while the city pursues other options.

Brown confirmed for Reid that there is an end-of-pipe filtration method available as tertiary treatment, but emphasized that it would be very expensive and that there are time constraints in place. Reiterated that challenging the TMDLs does not buy the city time in solving the problem. In any case, tertiary treatment would be necessary to reach the .08 standard to discharge into the creek.

Brown explained that the off-site project is a nine-twelve month project and that DEQ will allow extensions throughout the process of the plan. However, if a completely different plan is pursued, there will likely be a flat, December 31st deadline to meet the standards. Brown stated that the City's relationship with DEQ is better than it was four years ago and stressed the importance of working with DEQ. She explained that DEQ could re-evaluate the standards, but emphasized that the standards could be made more stringent if the city wants to have DEQ review further data.

Brown confirmed that Carollo is actively pursuing large scale drip irrigation options. Fine questioned if staff has investigated the possibility of whether the DEQ standards are within their statutory guidelines to impose. Questioned whether the burden of proof would fall on DEQ to show that the standards are reasonable, and suggested that he would like council to consider directing Brown and Nolte to explore the possibility of a legal challenge to the DEQ standards. Stated that if it were legitimate, litigation would provide a good way to buy more time to reach a decision.

Brown and Nolte stated that they have not considered this, as yet. Discussed the fact that other challenges have occurred. Council suggested that this option was worth looking into.

Brown confirmed for Hanson that if land were available, the filtration system for tertiary treatment would take at least nine months to construct. Reid noted that she'd had conversation with Carollo Engineers and felt satisfied that there is land available. Brown explained that part of the WWTP site is now taken up by bio-solids treatment. Reid explained that she believes, after speaking to Carollo, that they are fairly innovative, and can work outside the original design constraints previously set by council.

Council discussion regarding how they would like to hold public meetings regarding the WWTP. Laws suggested that continued discussion take place at a regular council meeting and if necessary, regular council business could be carried over into the next day where a Study Session is regularly scheduled. Fine suggested special council meetings. Agreed to attempt Laws' compromise with the understanding that business might be continued, and discussion could be conducted at study sessions as needed. Brown will put a schedule together and deliver to council for their information.

Hanson questioned what the original hurdles were to connecting to BCVSA. Shaw explained that the SDC charges and the fact that Ashland would have been treated as a client rather than as a member. Reid also noted that some viewed effluent as a resource as well. Hauck emphasized that it was not a viable option, financially, and that on the long term the city would have no say in how standards would be addressed or what costs would be imposed. Hanson asked to confirm that there was no reason to believe things would be different now. Reid suggested that if this is the case, staff be directed to cease consideration of this option. Laws suggested that his concerns had to do with maintaining control of the water as a resource, especially with piping water to Medford while leaving the creek dry. Further explained that with water rights, there are replacement water and going to Medford would be a possibility.

Fine requested that Brown and Nolte present information on the feasibility of a legal challenge to the DEQ phosphorous standards at the April 4 council meeting. Specifically, he asked: 1) would a legal challenge be legitimate?; 2) what is the likelihood of success? Nolte clarified that the third question to be looked at would be whether such an action would really buy the council 18 months for deliberation.

Shaw explained that fines increase dramatically if the city is not working to resolve the problem, and noted that the city has already signed agreements. Fine noted he would prefer to have the City Attorney explore this option and provide an opinion.

Shaw recounted previous challenges to the phosphorous standards. Stated that totally abandoning the idea of piping effluent to Medford was unwise if all options are to be considered, and emphasized that while time is getting short for a decision, this has been an ongoing discussion for nearly 11 years. Suggested that all the information regarding potential options be updated and presented again for the council and the community.

Laws noted the great job that Public Works Director Brown has done, and recognized the amount of time and effort involved in preparing the information requested.

Jim Elliott/2050 Butler Creek Rd./Cautioned that sprinklers of any size will create aerosols, and explained that a drip irrigation system would need filtration. Commended council for the extra thought being given to this issue.

Bill Craven/68 East Main St./Noted that he has a certified organic 50-acre farm abutting the proposed spray irrigation property. He stated that he had received information that indicated if spray irrigation is used it would contaminate his property and make it impossible for him to continue farming organically. He stated that he had a previous conversation with Public Works Director Paula Brown during Brian Almquist's term as City Administrator, and Brown stated that the spray irrigation would not work on this soil as phosphates would build up in the soil. Noted that after speaking to Donald Duffy, another engineer, he was told that this was indeed the case. He brought a 1998 court case to the council's attention where an Oregon homeowner sued the Redwood Sanitary Sewer District over sewage sludge composting operations based on the sewage plant was a nuisance regarding noise and odor. He felt that noise and odor had not been adequately addressed as possible problems associated with spray irrigation on the proposed property. He agreed that DEQ should be challenged through the judicial process. He stated that he would likely participate in a judicial suit against the city if the city should pursue the spray irrigation.

Debbie Slatten/1 Coral Lane, #6/Suggested that it might be necessary to rely on private septic drain fields during the dry season, and to use grey water for outside watering. Commented on the possibility of an electrical-generating grey water distillery as one way to put water back into the creek. Stated that properly constructed compost pits or silos would be the best way to deal with sewage sludge for odor control.

Ron Roth/6950 Old Hwy 99 South/Noted that he has a farm on Eagle Mill Road, downstream of the WWTP, and that he owns two businesses in town. Submitted data to council regarding flows in Bear Creek, additional USGS temperature and phosphorous monitoring data, information from "Water Quality in North American River Systems," letters written by himself and others, and chart analysis from USGS and RVCOG. Suggested a task force be put together with a fisheries biologist, an environmental attorney, and an agricultural specialist to study this issue further and get to the real questions. He also questioned what would happen when the federal Clean Water Act collides with the Endangered Species Act. Stated that he supports challenging DEQ standards and limits.

Shaw noted the need to get data on the background phosphate levels in the creek at a point above the farmers and non-point sources; suggested going to the headwaters of the creek to get this data.

Jim Moore/1217 Park St./Noted that it has been a pleasure working with Public Works Director Paula Brown and city staff. He does not believe that litigation is the final answer here, but agreed that it could be used to find answers. He noted that he had looked at the Oregon Salmon Recovery Initiative prepared by RVCOG in 1997, and reminded those listening that the intent behind regulations is to save the fishery. Suggested working together to set standards that work to create a healthy, balanced ecosystem to serve as fish habitat. Emphasized that new information has become available in the last couple of years, and suggested that a conference is needed to get stakeholder agencies together to work on a plan. Suggested that this would involve NMFS, ODFW, Society of American Fisheries, DEQ, RVCOG, Public Works, Oregon Water Resources Board, Oregon Trout, Oregon Department of Agriculture, and WaterWatch. Explained that phosphorous is not all bad, because fish do need phosphorous. Stated that it should not be the responsibility of the City of Ashland to monitor baseline levels for a TMDL. Suggested that council send someone to the Humboldt State University seminar.

Brown expressed her agreement with Moore's suggestion, but noted the difficulty in accomplishing something of this magnitude within the sixty-day period involved. Clarified for Wheeldon that fish is the issue here, and explained that DEQ is working from a different set of assumptions relative to phosphorous and fish health. Suggested that these assumptions should be challenged.


Public Works Director Paula Brown explained to council that the City had been working toward gaining approval of a modernization project and million-dollar funding within the State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) for Siskiyou Boulevard. Brown discussed costs and issues involved here, including subsurface drainage problems, and suggested that while the jurisdictional exchange is not a great deal, it is a good deal.

Reid noted that it is her understanding that the current budget is very tight and that the Street Department is to be re-evaluated. Considering these two issues, she questioned taking over a road that may bring an additional burden to the city financially. Brown explained that the concern on the part of the Street Department is the unknown, and that the issues being looked at will help better define the Department's workload. Emphasized that taking over the maintenance of Siskiyou is the choice of the Council, and stated that financially the costs are very nearly the same either way. Emphasized that not taking over Siskiyou will not hurt the City, but that without jurisdiction there will not be a bike lane on Siskiyou, and the pavement will be patched at the level it is now.

Reid questioned what the impact to the budget would be if the city were to take over ownership of the street. She used the example of a neighborhood that sought city funding to help install sidewalks. City Administrator Mike Freeman clarified that funding for this type of project comes from other sources.

Law stated that he shared the same concern that Reid voiced and would like additional information on the cost to the city to maintain Siskiyou Boulevard to city standards. Brown stated that she would look at putting information together based on a twenty-year maintenance program. Brown emphasized the need for the city to limit itself with what is done on Siskiyou, as the project could easily take on a life of its own if not held to the $2 million cap.

Laws stated that it makes sense for the city to have ownership of Siskiyou Boulevard, but suggested that the jurisdictional exchange should not be accepted until the council knows the details and costs involved.

Hauck emphasized that Siskiyou Boulevard is the key to the city's transportation plans, and without changing Siskiyou to accommodate bicycles the city will be unable to encourage bicycle use at the level desired.

Fine felt that there are big dividends based on an investment of this size, and requested some sort of visual display to see what $2million would buy the city. Wants to have a visual demonstration of how the design would serve multi-modal transportation.

Freeman clarified that the city is already doing a lot of maintenance to the street, and suggested that costs be looked at in terms of how much more it would cost than it is already costing now for maintenance.

Shaw emphasized her belief that it is very important that the city take ownership, based on the fact the ODOT will be abandoning city streets in the future.

Wheeldon requested that this issue be placed on the agenda for the next council meeting so that action can be taken, and suggested taking action on other jurisdictional exchanges before ODOT reaches the point of abandoning the other stretches within the City.

Wheeldon also suggested that there needs to be a discussion regarding a traffic light at Hersey Street and North Main. Laws noted that Jim Olson had mentioned to the Traffic Safety Commission that a consultant was being hired to look at this intersection, and stated that results have not been brought back for review yet.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:00 p.m.

Submitted by Barbara Christensen, City Recorder/Treasurer

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