DEPOE BAY — A skeptical city councilor told a pair of government water warriors to keep their hands off Depoe Bay’s one-of-a-kind water source Tuesday.
Jerome Grant defended the city’s grip on clean-flowing Rocky Creek following a pitch to join a Lincoln County water consortium whose members are quickly running out of water. Grant bridled at the offer, telling the self-described “passionate water professionals” how he intended to vote on the matter:
“There’s no way in hell!” exclaimed Grant at the July 6 city council meeting, warning that the well-supplied city could be “at the mercy of a jealous water cartel” if it became an official member.
Depoe Bay’s especially-clean drinking water is the product of a hard-rock creek two miles south of town. Even as county officials declared a drought emergency, Depoe Bay’s reservoir was full to the brim, with a couple of wells and a copious aquifer as backup. “We’re in pretty good shape,” said public works chief Brady Weidner, who claimed there is plenty of salt-free water 130 feet beneath the city in the unlikely event the creek ran dry.
Meanwhile, the cities of Seal Rock, Newport, Toledo and Siletz, who share the same water source, have made a pact to address catastrophic low flows on the Siletz River. One of the group’s projects is to “explore alternate sources,” acknowledged consortium representative Alexandria Scott. Syndicate member Newport has proposed damming the wildlife-rich Rocky Creek watershed to slake its growing thirst, Grant reminded the council.
Consortium spokesman Adam Denlinger took Grant’s comments in stride by remarking he was no stranger to blunt public officials. Still, Oregonians use three times more water per person than Californians, he observed. The pair predicted harsh conservation measures are in the pipeline, including no-laundry orders, mowing bans, forced cutbacks at fish processing plants and curtailment of “junior” water rights — including farmers and businesses.
Raising the price residents pay for water could be another solution. “I don’t understand why we don’t price water to reflect its value,” Denglinger said. “After all, it’s the most essential of services.”
City Councilor Fran Recht rushed to the defense of the consortium, citing the need for combined action. But any momentum to join the group stalled after she urged the water department to encourage beaver-dam construction. “We’ve got to maintain the beaver population,” insisted Recht, who claimed the animals would create new reservoirs of water and fire protection for Depoe Bay.
Councilors pondered posting “No Hunting” signs on North Creek until Weidner, of public works, said beaver carry the fatal water-borne parasitic protozoan, Cryptosporidium. “It kills people,” he remarked — as well as debates, apparently, since no further action was taken on the alleged water shortage.
In other city business, Rep. David Gomberg described how a “series of plagues” including armed protesters, a Covid-ravaged state budget and malfunctioning conference calls threatened to disrupt the flow of pork to House District 10. Gomberg, a vice-chair on the House money committee, claimed legislators were down to marijuana and alcohol profits when the economy unexpectedly took off and $2.6 billion in federal aid arrived. After 90 legislators fought over the windfall, Gomberg and State Senator Dick Anderson brought home $60 million in bacon, including $2.9 million for repairs in the city-owned Depoe Bay harbor, dams for Newport and a sewer system for the Port of Toledo.
“They promised me the first flush,” Gomberg beamed, though he will receive only a thank-you card from Depoe Bay, the council later decided.