Work is underway on a project to increase capacity at the Medford Water Commission’s Duff Treatment Plant. The water commission is now applying for a $30 million grant to build more resilience into its water system. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]

A nearly $30 million federal grant to build resilience into the Medford Water Commission’s system is being sought by the agency that supplies water for 150,000 people in the Rogue Valley.

If awarded, the money would pay to replace the more than 100-year-old Capital Hill Reservoir in Medford; add backup power and resilience pumping to two control stations; and put a new water supply line down Crater Lake Avenue from one of the stations to the reservoir. Work would begin in 2024.

“The state requirement now is that we look at building resilience into our water infrastructure in the next 50 years,” said Rachel Lanigan, senior engineer with the commission. The grant would be part of a resilience backbone which was just defined last year in work done by agency staff and consultants.

“This is our goal: to withstand an earthquake,” said Lanigan. The projects were ranked highest on a priority list.

A pre-application has been made to the state, which will act as the applicant with MWC as a sub-applicant. The application is due to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program during January.

The grant money could be used to fund up to 70% of construction costs. The remainder of funding would come from an Environmental Protection Agency Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans, which the agency has secured. The grant would help avoid increasing water rates to Medford and wholesale customers, according to information provided by the agency.

MWC has chosen to make the system running from the Duff Treatment Plant on the Rogue River more resilient rather than the lines that come from the Big Butte Springs between Butte Falls and Mount McLoughlin. Those lines cover more than 30 miles and would be more expensive to improve, said Lanigan.

The award could come in spring 2023, which would launch the design phase for the three projects. RH2 Engineering, which has a local office, has been awarded the contract to do the design work.

Studies of the Capital Hill facility have shown it would not do well in a significant earthquake, said Lanigan. A public relations firm has been retained by MWC to assist with the Capital Hill project.

“It’s a really small, quiet neighborhood. There will be a lot of construction over three years,” said Lanigan. “The site was there long before any of the homes. The reservoir was built after Big Butte Springs water came to town.”

The Martin Control Station, built in 2014, would get the backup power and resilient pumping capacity to supply winter-level water demands. It is located on Crater Lake Highway near Delta Waters Road. The Conrad Control Station, built in 1968, is located across Crater Lake Highway from Target and also would get the upgrades.

The cities of Ashland, Central Point, Jacksonville, Eagle Point, Phoenix and Talent are writing a letter in support of the grant to FEMA. A draft cites the need for water during emergencies and notes the availability of water to jurisdictions during the 2020 Almeda Fire.

“We are adding more volume of water and better ability to move the water in the system. All of this supports getting more water to wholesale customers,” said Lanigan.

All work done with the grant money would be inside Medford’s urban growth boundary, said MWC General Manager Brad Taylor. The customer cities have meters located within the system, and the project would help ensure water is available at those locations in the event of emergencies, he said.

MWC already is in the midst of several major projects. Those include enlargement of the Duff Treatment Plant capacity located on the Rogue River and several pipeline projects, including one which will run a new pipeline down Table Rock Road from the Duff plant to Villas Road. Work on that project should begin next year.

The agency also will take advantage of upcoming city of Medford work on Foothill Road to replace and add lateral lines as part of a road widening project.

As part of the backbone resilience work, the agency is looking at building a reservoir near Delta Waters Road to serve customers in what is called the River Zone between the Crater Lake and Table Rock roadways extending to White City.

Besides the three grant projects, other items for backbone enhancement prior to 2040 include Crater Lake Highway pipeline work, evaluation of the Spring Street pipeline and additional reservoirs to serve southeast and southwest Medford

Resilience backbone projects after 2040 include expanding a control station on Rossanley Drive, adding water storage capacity in the upper Hillcrest Road area and hardening remaining backbone pipelines.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at [email protected]