Sutherlin plant approved, water rates to increase

SUTHERLIN, Ore. -- The plan to upgrade Sutherlin's waste water treatment plant is more than a decade in the making.

The facility plan was just approved by the Department of Environmental Quality last week.

Steve Major, the city waste water engineer, says the process to get it approved was lengthy. "The plan was under a lot of scrutiny by DEQ, and that's why it took a couple of years to get through and finally get it approved," Major said.

The plant is over 30 years old, and the city being in violation of the discharge permit could face fines.

That, Major said, is why even though rates will have to increase, it was needed. "One way or the other, the plant has to be upgraded to meet the current requirements of the discharge permit," he said.

This $22 million project will eventually start to affect water bills in Sutherlin. "You would expect to see some rate increase sometime in the next fiscal year, a small percentage," said Sutherlin City Manager Jerry Gillham. "By the year 2018-2019 will be when the full phased-in rate will come into play."

Gillham says residents can expect their current monthly rate of around $33 to reach up into the $50-$60 range.

Gillham says that although it won't make residents happy, they are trying to make it as painless as possible. "While that isn't pleasant, we hope to be able to make it as easy as possible by phasing it in clear into the year 2018, and secondly at the end of the day, we'll still be in the range of nearly every community around the region," he said.

The next step for the city is to secure funding. "The city is under a timeline to get funding, and then we have to start design and construction," Major said.