Newport News Times
By: Terry Dillman
City officials OK change of source for golf course
Lincoln City Council members unanimously agreed to a change of water source for the Chinook Winds Casino Resort Golf Course during Monday night’s council session that would provide water more conducive to growing grass on the greens, while reducing demand on the city’s water system during a peak time.
City Manager David Hawker recommended signing an agreement with the Siletz Tribe that would exchange treated water currently piped to the golf course from the city’s treatment facility for untreated water drawn from Devils Lake near the course, using the city’s Rock Creek water right. Hawker said the current arrangement – carried out under a 1991 agreement with the owners of what was then known as Lakeside Golf Course – “is not an ideal situation for either the golf course or the city.”
Treated water, he noted, is expensive and contains chlorine and chlorinated by-products that “are not best for turf.” Otherwise, the treated water is “quite pure,” and contains no nutrients.
From the city’s long-term perspective, the arrangement would extend the water supply and treatment plant capacity.
The golf course, Hawker said, uses an average of 12-million gallons of water each year, with the largest use between mid-August and mid-September, which coincides with the city’s peak overall demand and lowest supply from its Schooner Creek source. The 12-million gallons is 2.5 percent of the city’s annual demand, and 5.5 percent of overall demand during the peak month. With a golf course expansion looming, its water demand would rise.
“Eliminating this demand would extend our supply and plant capacity for about 350 additional customers,” Hawker said.
City staff and tribal representatives worked out an arrangement to allow the tribe to use the city’s Rock Creek water right to draw from Devils Lake to irrigate the golf course. The lake water offers a bonus, Hawker noted: it contains between 20 and 40 micrograms per liter of phosphorous, along with nitrogen, which would provide nutrients for the golf course turf, reducing the need to apply fertilizer.
“In other words, nutrients would be removed, rather than added to the lake,” said Hawker.
The agreement calls for the tribe to reimburse half the commercial rate for treated water, saving the golf course about $20,000 per year.
“There is a downside,” said Hawker. “Until we need this water for growth, we will lose $20,000 annually in revenue while reducing our costs about $5,000, for a net financial loss of about $15,000. I view the loss in revenue as less important than the extension of our water supply. While the Drift Creek project will likely provide sufficient water fro the next 15 to 20 years of growth, the water we will need at that time will be frightfully expensive.”
The agreement also allows more water to flow into Schooner Creek at the critical time of year, which Hawker considered “a significant additional benefit.”
The tribe would pay the engineering, design and construction costs for the added diversion and associated works designated as the Siletz Point of Diversion and Place of Use. Rock Creek flows fluctuate, and the agreement notes that both city and tribal officials recognize that the city can’t guarantee the required flow level would always be available.
Hawker said it also features a provision for a cooperative look at reusing effluent from the city’s wastewater plant. As part of that effort, they would put together a reuse task force featuring two city representatives and two tribal representatives “to study and confer regarding potential alternatives for the reuse of untreated water in golf course operations.”
The tribe also agrees not to apply for any new or additional water rights on Rock Creek during the term of the agreement, which is 15 years, with an option to renew for another 15 years.
While the city council has given its blessing to the agreement, and tribal council approval is likely, city council member Chester Noreikis said everything hinges on approval by the Oregon Water Resources Department (OWRD). Hawker said if the OWRD does not issue a final order of approval within two years of the effective date of the agreement, it would terminate, and the city and tribe would renegotiate the terms of the existing water services agreement for use of treated water, and consider alternative arrangements for tribal use of untreated city water.
Terry Dillman is the assistant editor of the News-Times. Contact him at 541-265-8571, ext 225, or [email protected]