Before April of 1945, the homes in the area now known as the Southwest Lincoln County Water PUD obtained their water from numerous small creeks and springs. These sources of water were not dependable and some were of questionable quality.
In April 1945, Mr. R. B. Yates circulated a petition to determine the possibility of forming a Water District. The idea found much favor. At a meeting held in the Edgewater Hotel, about 30 people met to discuss forming a water district. Temporary officers, J. S. Birrell, Nick Cosmos, Carl Olson, Bruce Ambler and Frank Fehrenbacher were elected at this time. At this meeting, it was decided to make a survey of possible water sources. Bruce Ambler, with the help of Frank Fehrenbacher, J. Birrell, Nick Cosmos and Carl Olson slashed and cut brush for days to check on Divinity Creek (Vingie Creek), Starr Creek and Big Creek.
An election to form Southwest Lincoln County Water District, now PUD, was held on September 14, 1945. J. S. Birrell, Geo. N. Cosmos Sr., Frank Fehrenbacher, O.K. Jones, and Carl Olson were elected as commissioners at this time. The Board of Commissioners then appointed Bruce Ambler as Engineer and Geo. B. McCluskey as Attorney. The Board of Commissioners then filed for water rights on Big Creek and Starr Creek. After determining the assessed value of the Water District, a Bond election was held in January 1946. This election authorized the issuing of $51,000 in Revenue Bonds and $9,000 General Obligation Bonds (which was later increased to $33,000). In August 1946, the $33,000 in General Obligation Bonds were sold to the State of Oregon. This sale provided the necessary funds to construct the head works on Starr Creek and Big Creek, construct the south portion of the system and to buy the 6-inch pipe needed to begin laying pipe north to Big Creek.
The Water District’s lack of revenue at this time ruled out the sale of more Revenue Bonds. Ray Cox, of Yachats, who was serving as Commissioner, and John O’Brian gave generously of their time, money and energy to secure private loans to buy the pipe to reach as far north as Sea Crest (just north of Big Stump Beach). In March 1948, the sale of Revenue Bonds financed the laying of pipe from Sea Crest to the north boundary of the Water District. A distribution line with service connections was then installed. Residents of Yaquina John Point petitioned to annex into the Water District and after an election in August 1948 were annexed. Additional revenue bonds were sold to finance laying pipe to Yaquina John Point.
The completion of a 6-inch main on Wakonda Beach Road in the mid 1950’s, from Highway 101 to Seahawk Street, replaced the existing inadequate water distribution system, opening up that area for development. In 1960, the Water District began a search for property that would eventually be the present site of the Water District office. The property was purchased in November, 1960, for five hundred dollars. Funding was acquired in 1963 from the Housing and Home Finance Agency for the construction of a 30 foot by 40 foot office/maintenance building, and for engineering costs for water works improvements. The improvements needed included a 200,000 gallon reservoir at the end of Seabrook Lane, a settling tank at the Starr Creek head works, a settling tank at the Big Creek head works, thirty fire hydrants and the replacement of three thousand feet of 6-inch AC water main at the south end of the District.
Preliminary engineering and planning for these improvements began in October 1963. A Bond election was held on July 29, 1964, with the voters passing the sale of general obligation bonds in the amount of $144,000 to fund the improvements. The bonds were put up for bid and sold to First National Bank of Oregon. The water works improvements were completed in May 1966, and the Water District office opened in July 1966.
The mild climate, beautiful scenery and recreational opportunities make this area a favorite retirement location and a great place to live and play. These qualities contributed to steady growth and tourism in the area. With this growth came the need for a third water source and expansion of the system. This precipitated applying for water rights on Vingie Creek in 1966 and on Dicks Fork, a tributary of Big Creek in 1971. It was decided that the Dicks Fork source should be developed first.
The proposed development of Dicks Fork included the construction of a head works, settling basin, and storage reservoir. A tie-in with the existing 6-inch line on the west end of Wakonda Beach Road and a line north on Wakonda Beach Road to Waldport city limits that would tie into the existing reservoir on Seabrook Lane was constructed.
Between 1969 and 1972, the District had an average increase of fifty new services each year. In January, 1972, the District had 716 active accounts. A Bond election held February 22, 1972, authorized the sale of general obligation bonds in the sum of $325,000, to finance the Dicks Fork development. The project began in July, 1973 and took approximately 1 1/2 years to complete.
A mutual aid water agreement was negotiated with the City of Waldport for an emergency inter-tie with their system. A similar agreement for a system inter-tie was also negotiated with the City of Yachats. After 1974, The Water District began an aggressive program of replacing the existing AC pipe in the system with larger sized PVC pipe.
The District office went through a major remodel in 1988-89, doubling the office space. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) became effective June 24, 1977. Congress amended the SDWA in 1986; one provision of this Act was the Surface Water Treatment Rule, which mandated that Public Surface Source Water Systems be treated through filtration and disinfection. The Dyer Partnership was retained in 1988 as a consulting engineer to look at the future expansion and upgrading of the system to comply with Federal and State drinking water requirements.
In 1989, the Water District applied for, and received, a permit to take 450 gpm from Vingie Creek in addition to the 135 gpm permit the Water District already held. In September 1991, the Water Board reviewed the Water System Master Plan compiled by The Dyer Partnership. It was found that the Water System was in need of two treatment plants, three reservoirs, and ten miles of water main to be in compliance with Federal and State drinking water requirements. The cost of the system upgrade was estimated to be $5 million. The Water District applied for Federal Assistance and was awarded $2.9 million in grants. A Resolution adopted June 7, 1993 authorized issuing Water Revenue Bonds (which would be purchased by Rural Development) not to exceed $2.1 million.
The scope and complexity of this upgrade prompted the Board to create a position for a District Manager. On May 17, 1993, the Water Board hired a District Manager. The project went out to bid on May 20, 1996 and bids were opened on June 18, 1996. The project consisted of multiple schedules. After approval by the Federal Government, the Water Board awarded the different schedules on July 10, 1996. The Project schedules were awarded as follows:
Schedule One, which was for the installation of treated water pipelines and raw water lines, was awarded to Skyline Equipment and Utilities of Clackamas, Oregon.
Schedule Two, which involved the construction of three steel reservoirs (50,000, 500,000, and 1,000,000 gallon capacity), was awarded to Northwest Permastore of Dallas, Oregon.
Schedule Three, which was for two water treatment plants (one located at the U.S. Forest Service Blodgett Work Center and one at the Dicks Fork reservoir site), was awarded to The James W. Fowler Co. of Dallas, Oregon. Construction began in August 1996 and was substantially completed June 1997.
During the summer of 1996, a contractor working on the new motel at the north end of Yachats tore out the inter-tie between Yachats and the District. This inter-tie was replaced with a pump station in 2001.
In 1997, the Water District began work on the Vingie Creek Water supply and found that these permits could not be developed in the place approved by the Water Resources Department because the U.S. Forest Service would not allow the District to construct a road to the diversion site. The Water District applied for and was granted permission to move the Vingie Creek diversion site to a point closer to the ocean and off U.S. Forest Service land. This move meant that all of the water removed from Vingie Creek would have to be pumped to the Blodgett Treatment Plant. The Water District began constructing the intake structure for removing water from Vingie Creek in 2000. The intake structure was completed in May 2002 and the Water District started taking water from Vingie Creek.
Beginning in 1998 the Water District began the installation of a ten-inch water line along Highway 101 from Blodgett Road to Breakers Drive. This project, which had parts installed by contractors and by the Water Board crew, was completed in the Spring of 2003 with the installation of the last 100 feet at Fernwood Drive and Highway 101 by the Water District crew.
In the fall of 2002, the Water District purchased a site on Wakonda Beach Road for a future 500,000 to 1,000,000 gallon reservoir with an overflow elevation of 180 feet. This reservoir will probably be built in the future, depending upon population growth.
In 2009 emergency generators were installed at the two water treatment plants and 2 pump stations to allow the District to produce and distribute water in the event of power loss.
The District’s new shop building near the Blodgett Treatment Plant was completed in 2014. The District has moved equipment and repair parts out of the tsunami zone to enable the District to respond better in the event of an emergency. The space can also be used for emergency shelter during a catastrophic event.
The future of the Water District is envisioned to be as follows:
1. Add an additional filter unit to Blodgett Treatment Plant, in approximately 2028, depending upon population growth.
2. Upgrade water lines on side streets to provide better fire protection.
3. The Wakonda Beach Road tank site will be developed as needed for future needs.
In 2015, after several years of review and discussion, your Board asked voters within the SWLCWD to approve conversion of the legal status of SWLCWD from a ‘Special District’ to a ‘People’s Utility District’ or PUD, as a move in the best future interests of all SWLCWD customers. The Oregon Legislature created the PUD form of business in 1931 exclusively for electric and water utilities to ensure stronger local control and to simplify some business requirements.
The Board, through the initiative process, placed this on the May 2016 Ballot. Approval failed by a small number of votes. In review, the Board realized it did not do enough in informing why the change would be beneficial. The Board placed the initiative on the ballot again in May 2017.
Thank you to all who voted in the May 2017 special election. We are now Southwest Lincoln County Water People’s Utility District. The result was Yes votes 330 to No votes of 176 including the yes votes needed in the precinct located inside the City of Waldport.
The water district temporarily has two 5-member Boards. The previous legal entity, the SW Lincoln County Water District, transitionally exists until all necessary legal assets and liabilities have been transferred from the SWLCWD to the SWLCWPUD. Currently, the SWLCWD Board consists of three SWLCPUD Board of Director members and two from the community. The SWLCWD Board meets quarterly in Mar, Jun, Sep and Dec, following or preceding the regular monthly SWLCWPUD Board meeting. Until the transition is complete, we continue to require an elected SWLCWD Board of Commissioners.This assures all interests of the water district are properly overseen. There are no added costs to the water district during this transitional period.