News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

New well will add to Sisters’ water system

Sisters is adding a new well to its water system, which will substantially increase its pumping capacity.

At last Wednesday’s City Council meeting, the City awarded a public improvement contract to J. P. Prinz Co. LLC in the amount not to exceed $713,317, the lowest of five bids received for the construction of a new Well 4, Phase B.

Phase A, just completed, was the drilling of the well by Abbas Drilling on land at the east end of the Creekside Campground. While Phase A was underway, the design for the well house and all the equipment (Phase B) was being finalized. The well depth ended up being 293 feet. Work included drilling, casing, screening, grout seal, developing and testing as required for a complete 1,500-gallons-per-minute well.

Water, or the lack of it, here on the high desert determined what areas were settled and farmed back in the late 1800s. As in the past, water today determines how much growth is possible.

The first water brought to Sisters came from the surrounding creeks in the hand-dug ditches that crisscrossed the region with water from high up in the Three Sisters. People were awarded water rights for their use and historic early water rights are valuable to have because they take precedence over later rights.

Several years ago, Dorro Sokol and Cris Converse gifted a quasi-municipal water right for 2.15 cubic feet per second (approximately 1,000 gallons per minute) from Pine Meadow Ranch. The water right was originally obtained from Pine Meadow Ranch for the Pine Meadow Village development before it was annexed into the City and began using City water. Pine Meadow Ranch had some of the earliest water rights in Sisters.

The gift to the City saved the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would have cost to purchase the rights.

Currently, the City’s water comes from three wells fed by aquifers deep underground, freeing Sisters from reliance on only surface water, which can vary from year-to-year based on weather and temperature patterns.

South of town on Forest Service property, there is a water reservoir providing gravity-fed water to the city. When that water source reaches 60 PSI, a well is tripped to provide supplemental water. Well 1 is used in the winter and Well 3 (Big Bertha) is used in the summer.

Last winter, only on one in three days did the gravity-fed water suffice. Last summer, according to Public Works Director Paul Bertagna, the City was lucky to get one full day of gravity-fed water.

Well 4 will increase the pumping capacity by an additional 33 percent or 4,050 gpm.

In the City’s Water Master Plan, there is a plan for a new two-million-gallon reservoir for increased gravity-fed water storage and for increased water available to fight forest fires. That project will include new larger pipes from the reservoir to town.

Well 4 Phase B consists of the construction of a new well control building from materials that will be fire resistant, surrounded by a six-foot decorative iron security fence. The turbine pump will be controlled by a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) resulting in the ability to regulate the flow out of the 1,500 gpm well to produce what the current water right allows, which is 1,000 gpm. In the future ,as demand grows, the City can apply for a new 500 gpm water right and produce the full 1,500 gpm by just turning up the VFD. This will save the City from having to upsize the pump and motor in the future.

When tested over a 24-hour period, the new well pumped 2,000 cubic feet of water per minute with no drawdown. It only took six seconds to rebound to its static level.

The finished product will be a state-of-the-art water pumping system. A 250-kilowatt emergency back-up generator will be provided, as well as a large start-up stormwater swale, security fencing, asphalt drive and concrete sidewalk around the building. Construction is anticipated to start in early February with 150 calendar days for substantial completion.

The total budget for Well 4 is $1,200,000. The majority of the money for this project was budgeted in FY 2020/21 in the Water System Development Charges Fund to pay for the construction of Phase A and the completion of the design and construction of Phase B.

Well 4 was originally scheduled in the Water Master Plan for 2027, but with the gift of the water right to the City, it was bumped into 2021 — which is fortuitous, given the current rate of population growth in Sisters.


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