Iconic Portland Reservoir to Be Refilled This Winter

It’s been empty due to concerns that the earthen dams holding up the reservoir may be damaged.

Tabor Reservoir 6, in happier times. (Aaron Wessling)

The Portland Water Bureau plans to soon refill Mount Tabor’s Reservoir 6, which was drained in 2021 after the city found “voids” underneath its concrete bottom. It’s been empty since due to concerns that the earthen dams holding up the reservoir may be damaged.

Signs explaining why the once picturesque reservoir is now an ugly concrete hole are posted on the surrounding wrought-iron fence. The reservoir is perched above neighboring homes and a failure of the dams would be catastrophic.

But the city has recently allayed those concerns. In August, an engineering firm used radar and cameras to inspect the voids and determined they pose a minimal threat.

“No voids have been identified which could contribute to a failure of the earthen berm dam,” the report, obtained by WW, reads. It recommends replacing sections of the reservoir’s floor, at a cost of $42,000, after which the reservoir can safely be refilled.

The city plans to do so this winter, according to an update posted on the Water Bureau’s website.

“We are excited to be close to a plan and expect that construction will start in December,” bureau spokesman Brandon Zero says.

The reservoirs were built in the early 20th century to supply the city’s drinking water, but were disconnected from the system in 2015, replaced by underground tanks on Powell Butte. The city is spending $4 million on an ongoing project to restore them.

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