If the activists trying to save Mount Tabor reservoirs are looking for a hero, they can scratch U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley's name off the list.
In the month since Portland City Hall announced it would cover or drain the city's open-air reservoirs, a coalition of activists have turned to the Oregon congressional delegation, asking its members to step in and get a deferral from federal rules.
But staff for U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) today tell WW he won't interfere with the city's decision not to seek an LT2 waiver—an exemption to federal requirements to cover open-air drinking water storage tanks.
"Senator Merkley is taking his cues on this from the City of Portland," says Merkley spokesman Matt McNally. "It's an issue between the Oregon Health Authority and the city."
WW first reported on May 31 that Mayor Charlie Hales and other city officials would cease seven years of unsuccessful appeals of federal LT2 requirements to cover its drinking water reservoirs in Washington Park and on Mount Tabor. The Oregon Health Authority denied the city's most recent request for a deferral in April, and City Hall declared the clock had run out.
Activist group Friends of the Reservoirs quickly launched a letter-writing campaign to Merkley and U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer.
"Tell the delegation that you are requesting their urgent assistance to protect the functionality of Portland's open reservoirs and ratepayer's pocketbooks," Friends of the Reservoirs leader Floy Jones writes on the activists' website. "Ask them to prepare legislation that will grandfather in Portland's open reservoirs and our Bull Run source water as compliant with the LT2 regulation."
The Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association sent a letter to Portland City Council on July 1 demanding the city enlist the congressional delegation on seeking an LT2 waiver.
McNally confirms Merkley has received some emails. But he hasn't heard from city officials.
The fight to keep Portland from covering or draining its reservoirs in Washington Park and Mount Tabor has united neighborhood association leaders, anti-fluoridation activists and veterans of the 2011 Occupy Portland camps, who are planning an occupation of Tabor Park on July 12.