Port Townsend City Council funds $495K in water-system costs

Project expected to begin next month

The city of Port Townsend will finish construction of a well at the municipal golf course this spring for irrigation and emergency water. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

The city of Port Townsend will finish construction of a well at the municipal golf course this spring for irrigation and emergency water. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)

PORT TOWNSEND — It’s not a great ground water supply, but it will be valuable in an emergency, Public Works Director Steve King told the Port Townsend City Council.

A well has been dug at the Port Townsend Golf Course mostly for irrigation purposes, King said, but the plumbing and pump system aren’t yet finished.

Now is the time to complete this relatively small project, King told the council, to make way for bigger city projects in the future.

Already $145,000 has been included in the 2022 city budget for the golf course well. During the City Council’s meeting last Tuesday, King recommended an additional $100,000 to have Interwest Construction, a contractor the city already works with, finish the job.

The council voted unanimously to spend a total of $245,000 on completion of the well.

Once it’s operating, the golf course well is expected to save the city $50,000 to $60,000 in annual irrigation costs, King noted. Water from it — instead of city drinking water, which is currently being used — will irrigate the golf course during the dry months of the year. It will also supply water for any future use of the golf course land.

And in the event of an emergency that would affect the city’s water system — an earthquake, a water main failure — the well would provide a backup, King emphasized.

Port Townsend uses its decades-old Olympic Gravity Water System (OGWS) to draw water from the Big Quilcene and Little Quilcene rivers.

If a disaster interrupts that system, the well at the golf course could sustain about 20 percent of the volume that normally comes from Quilcene — not much, but “20 percent over nothing is substantial,” King said.

“We would have to issue a boil-water notice,” he added.

Council member Ben Thomas, acknowledging Port Townsend’s ground water is limited, asked King about the possibility of saltwater intrusion.

King replied that if the well were running 365 days a year, taking thousands of gallons out of the aquifer, it would be a real problem. But since the well is expected to normally run just during the summer months, irrigating the golf course, saltwater intrusion is not a threat.

“But your point is dead-on,” King told Thomas, and it’s why the city can’t start drilling wells all over town.

King said in a later email to Peninsula Daily News that work will begin in February and, since the well is right next to the parking lot, construction won’t affect the golfers on the fairways or greens.

In other action last week, the City Council voted unanimously to fund new meters to measure raw water coming into the city and the Port Townsend Paper Co.

These master meters, to record all of the OGWS water flowing to the mill and city, are expected to cost as much as $250,000. They’re part of the city’s new contract, signed in December, that has the paper mill and the city sharing millions of dollars in maintenance, operation and upgrades.

This is the first time the mill’s raw water will be metered, King said.

These expenses — for the golf course well and the master meters — are steep due to the current inflationary conditions, he noted. The city is also contending with disruptions in the international supply chain and with manpower shortages, which are affecting all manner of contracts.

“The reason this is costing more is that everything is broken right now. Is that relatively accurate?” asked council member Libby Wennstrom.

“Very well put, yes,” King said.

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Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or durbanidelapaz@peninsuladailynews.com.

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