News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Sewer project gets $50 million boost

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

Efforts to create a sewer system in the Santiam Canyon have received a $50 million shot in the arm from Marion County.

The Board of Commissioners at its Aug. 3 meeting authorized the $50 million grant, which originated with the federal American Rescue Plan Act funds routed through the Oregon Legislature. Canyon officials were expecting the windfall but still had to wait while the formal authorization of the funds played out.

The sewer system, when completed, will serve Mill City, Gates, Detroit and Idanha. It will be built in two phases, with the Mill City-Gates pieces coming first, mainly because Mill City already has some infrastructure in place.

“This is a big deal,” said Mill City Mayor Tim Kirsch, “not just for Mill City and Gates but for the whole Santiam Canyon.”

Canyon officials say that the sewer system is a necessity as the region looks to rebuild after the destructive 2020 fires. 

“This is just great news,” said Detroit Mayor Jim Trett. “It will be much easier for us to build with the sewer system in place. We knew going in that it was going to take awhile, but this gets us much closer to getting there.”

Assisting with the work will be Keller Associates, a Salem-based consulting and engineering firm. 

Current timelines for the project call for completion of the Mill City-Gates piece by 2026, with Detroit-Idanha coming on line a year or two later.

The bulk of the $50 million grant, approximately $40 million, will go to the Mill City-Gates phase, with the remaining $10 million heading to Detroit-Idanha.

“Work like this is very expensive for rural communities like Mill City,” Kirsch said. “If we had been looking to do the upgrades ourselves we would have had to secure our own grants and loans. And Gates would have never been able to find the dollars in their budget.”

The project is being managed by the North Santiam Sewer Authority, whose eight-person board includes two members from each of the four communities. 

Kirsch serves as vice-chair of the board, with Janet Hall also representing the town. Ken Woodward of Detroit is the chair, with Denny Nielsen of Detroit also on the board.

“I don’t have to do too much,” Trett said. “I just tell them to keep up the good work … and we’ll go from there.”

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