Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Drought casts Doubt on Wisdom of New Reservoir

While so far Marion County has escaped real drought conditions, this summer has been "abnormally dry" and the farther southeast you go in Oregon, drought ranks from moderate, to severe, to extreme. (There's one last rank of even worse, "exceptional drought," but you have to go to California to see that. But it's everywhere in California.)

USDA Drought Map for Oregon, August 19th
Marion County is dry
You might remember a Climate Assessment for the US that projected a dramatic reduction in summer stream flows by 2040:

Creeks feeding the Santiam and Willamette Rivers will be low in 2040!
That'll impact the Santiam and its tributaries, from which Salem gets its clean, pure, "sweet mountain water."

There's news today about a big new reservoir that will serve business and new subdivisions.

The city of Salem recently completed the Mill Creek Reservoir at a total cost of more than $5.74 million. A grand opening ceremony for the 2.2 million gallon reservoir, located at 5500 Deer Park Drive SE, is planned for 9 a.m. Friday.

City officials say the new infrastructure is worth a celebration. Salem's newest reservoir is another tool to recruit companies: It enhances water pressure for firefighting and opens up more property for development.
Here's its cost and some associated investments:
The $5.74 million Mill Creek Reservoir is just the latest example of public investments to make Mill Creek Corporate Center more attractive to businesses:
  • Last year, an Aumsville Highway SE road widening and utilities project was completed at a cost of $6 million. Project costs were funded with tax increment financing and a $4 million grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation Oregon Jobs and Transportation Act.
  • The U.S. Department of Commerce provided the city of Salem a $1.1 million grant for an on-site, wetlands mitigation project. The project was completed last year.
  • The installation of 10,000 linear feet of water mainline cost about $750,000. The project was completed in 2012 and was funded with tax increment financing and a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
You might also remember the $42 million in incentives to Sanyo Solar and questions about the extent to which they will pay off.

Sanyo Solar, back in May
A a couple of years ago, when SKATS was looking at possible TIGER projects, a large amount of investment was considered for this area.

There was one bundle for $12.3 million with three pieces:
  1. [s289] Gaffin at Cordon intersection: $956k : add westbound left turn, signalize
  2. [s286] Cordon: 22E to Caplinger: $4.6 mil – widen, bike lanes, sidewalks etc
  3. [s290] Gaffin: Cordon to SRETC: $6.76 mil – widen to minor arterial
In addition, another project for a little over $30 million involved Highway 22 and Cordon road:
Cordon @ OR 22E: ~$31.6 mil
[s085] Construct full interchange Cordon @ OR 22E: $31.6 mil (assumes $20 million and built in 2025)
At the center of Charles Marohn's analysis of the "growth ponzi scheme" is the claim that the property tax base of the development, both commercial and residential, enabled by this kind of "investment" in infrastucture cannot possibly be big enough to pay off the cost of the infrastructure before it completes its useful life. We will have to build new roads before the old roads are "paid off." New water mains before the old ones are "paid off." A second round of replacement usually happens before the first round of construction is paid for. It's not a sustainable model.

And then back to the water, the bedrock of sustainability.

Clean drinking water will be more in demand in the future. Do we really want to divert our clean drinking water to industry and to make it that much more difficult to have clean drinking water at home?

And the cost of reservoirs and piping to service future development on the edges of the city is another reason to prefer development close-in, in locations already served by existing infrastructure.

So there are, in fact, many reasons to be skeptical about celebrating a new reservoir.

Update - wait, I forgot this great image of "dumping fertilizer on the weeds"!

From Slate Salon
Even low-rise, mixed-use buildings of two or three stories—the kind you see on an old-style, small-town main street—bring in ten times the revenue per acre as that of an average big-box development. What’s stunning is that, thanks to the relationship between energy and distance, large-footprint sprawl development patterns can actually cost cities more to service than they give back in taxes. The result? Growth that produces deficits that simply cannot be overcome with new growth revenue.

“Cities and counties have essentially been taking tax revenues from downtowns and using them to subsidize development and services in sprawl,” [architect Joseph] Minicozzi told me. “This is like a farmer going out and dumping all his fertilizer on the weeds rather than on the tomatoes.” [italics added]

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

From the paper today:

"Panasonic's solar factory in Salem is laying off 50 people, more than 1/3 of its workforce.

Panasonic Eco Solutions Solar America LLC, formerly known as Sanyo Solar of Oregon LLC...

The layoff, effective April 15, comes about two years after the company let go of 52 workers. In May 2013, the Statesman Journal reported that taxpayers provided more than $42 million in incentives to lure Sanyo Solar of Oregon to Salem. City, state and county governments all provided tax credits, land write downs, grants and other incentives to cause corporate decision-makers to look favorably on Salem.