City readies massive excavation project at Powell Butte

The first of 30,000 dump truck loads of dirt will start rumbling off Powell Butte in July, as the city starts excavating a new reservoir. Find out how this gigantic public works project will affect the neighbors around, and visitors to, Powell Butte …

Portland Water Bureau’s principal engineer on the Powell Butte Reservoir #2, Teresa Elliott, looks at project plans with public outreach coordinator Tim Hall.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The Portland Water Bureau (PWB) is about to begin construction on Powell Butte Reservoir #2, a new, 50 million gallon reservoir. In a story we brought you in December, 2008, (CLICK HERE: to read it) we traced the history of this project – set to begin in just a few weeks.

A couple of weeks ago, we met with PWB’s principal engineer on the project, Teresa Elliott, as she and staff members went over the details of the Powell Butte reservoir construction – and nature park improvements – with neighbors at Harold Oliver Middle School in the Centennial neighborhood.

“We are doing the Powell Butte reservoir project as a two-stage contract,” Elliott began.  “The first contract will start this summer; it covers site development improvements.”

Summertime site development
Site development, Elliott explained, means, primarily, excavation. “We are doing the top 20 feet of digging for the reservoir as part of the site development.  During the second contract we’ll do the bottom 15 feet, and start doing all the concrete work.”

In other words, she explained that they’ll be removing the major portion of the soil, down to the level where it would slope from the sides of the tank down to the deepest part, which would be located in the center of the tank.

Still struggling to grasp the concept, we asked Elliott to put this plan in plain terms. “The bottom of the reservoir looks like a hopper bin. So, we’re going down to the beginning of the hopper. The second contract will dig ‘the hopper’, with the final plans the footings and the tank. We don’t want to redo work later, because we were misaligned by a foot or two.”

Also involved in the site development are “setting up erosion control and stormwater control; doing temporary road improvements; and, getting it ready for the major construction that will take place next summer,” Elliott went on.

30,000 truckloads and counting
Except for the topsoil to be kept on-site to be used after the project is completed, all of the rest of the dirt from the first part of the project – all 30,000 truckloads of it – will be leaving by truck.

“The dump trucks will, most likely, exit the park and go north on NE 162nd Avenue (the main entrance) to SE Division Street,” Elliott noted. “Then, they’ll either go east to the Knife River gravel yard in Gresham at SE 195th Avenue, or west to Portland Sand & Gravel at SE 107th Avenue.”

PWB will do all it can to mitigate the disturbance caused by an army of trucks – running about one every five minutes – through the neighborhood, Elliott said.

“I’m available to help with problems neighbors face,” said PWB public outreach manager Tim Hall. “Call me at (503) 823-6926.”

Nature park to stay open

Mary Walker gets a “tour” of the project from Lynn Barlow, natural area supervisor, City Nature East, Portland Parks & Recreation and Kathleen Murrin, PP&R’s City Nature East zone manager.

Also on hand at the open house were staff members from Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), including the natural area supervisor of PP&R’s City Nature East, Lynn Barlow.

“This is a three-year-long project,” Barlow explained. “It’s going to disrupt traffic at the main entrance to the Butte, and it will also disrupt some of the trails.”

In addition to finding alternate parking spots and providing alternate trails, Barlow said they were “leveraging” the construction to do trail maintenance.

“The most dramatic change,” Barlow told us, “will be that access to the parking lot at the top will be much more limited from NE 162nd Avenue – the road that winds up to the upper parking lot off Southeast Powell Boulevard. It’s not going to be closed around the clock.”

This graphic shows the location of some of the closed and moved trails, and alternate parking areas, around Powell Butte during the construction project.

There will be limited access on that road – and it may be closed to non-construction traffic – during weekdays. But on weekend days, or on evenings after construction, the upper parking lot should be open.

To give people alternate parking spots, PP&R will have two or three places, Barlow noted, for people to access the Butte and park their car. “It just will not be from the top – it’ll be from parking lots on the north side, and one on the west side.”

Some parts of the park will be closed off for safety reasons.  And, she added that there are a couple spots where there’ll be truck/pedestrian crossings.  They will be signed and well marked, she said.

The music plays on
We learned that the Portland Water Bureau will once again sponsor the Summer Concert Series at Powell Butte Nature Park. Concert dates are Saturday shot July 11, Saturday, July 18. The park’s main road and parking lot will be open for this event.

To see what’s new, see the website the PWB has set up for this project: CLICK HERE:

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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