The Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership began providing drinking water from the Clackamas River to both communities last year, and now that it is operational, the partners are expected to work out how it will be governed.
At a Tigard City Council workshop meeting last Tuesday, Jan. 17, members of the council who were present agreed that they would like to see a joint water commission set up — with equal representation from Tigard and Lake Oswego — to manage the two cities' interconnected water systems.
Under a draft governance agreement not yet approved by either council, the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Commission would have the authority to set system development charges, fees and rates, issue or sell bonds for the supply facilities, appoint a general manager who could hire staff for the commission, and manage land, rights-of-way and water rights on behalf of the two cities. Council approval would be required in certain cases.
The mayors of Tigard and Lake Oswego and two members of each city council would be appointed to serve on the commission, serving at the councils' pleasure.
Tigard City Council President Jason Snider voiced strong support for the proposed commission, which he said "puts Tigard in control of its own destiny a little bit more."
"I think there's a real issue with the level of input and control," Snider said. "We've seen that even in the construction part, and I don't want to leave that to my kids and grandkids."
Other Tigard city councilors also said they supported setting up a joint commission, although Councilor Tom Anderson asked whether the city has "taken the temperature of Lake Oswego" to see if it is something to which its City Council would agree.
"I think they're understanding of our perspective," Snider answered. "They're particularly concerned that it doesn't add a lot of additional expense."
That is indeed a consideration for Lake Oswego officials, confirmed Mayor Kent Studebaker of Lake Oswego this Tuesday.
The other option on the table, according to Tigard's project director for the LOT Water Partnership, Dennis Koellermeier, is amending the existing governance model with Lake Oswego as the senior partner.
Studebaker told The Times that while he has not made a decision about which governance model is preferable, he thinks his City Council will lean toward maintaining the current structure.
"Our council tends to not want to change things, and I don't blame them for that," Studebaker said. "It's worked very well, and there doesn't seem to be a strong reason to change things the way they are."
While Tigard's water customers are now getting their supply from the Clackamas River, it is through Lake Oswego that they are doing so. The city has water rights on the Clackamas that are sufficient to meet the needs of both Lake Oswego and Tigard for the next 20 years, according to Tigard's city website.
"No matter what form the governance takes, it's still our water right. We're going to make sure that that continues," Studebaker said.
The councils will hold a joint meeting at Tigard City Hall on Feb. 28 to discuss the issue.
Snider said he feels strongly that creating a new joint entity is the better way forward for the water partnership.
"I can't live with it a different way," he said at the workshop meeting.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from the mayor of Lake Oswego.
By Mark Miller