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

Gates water system gets $400,000 federal boost

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

Gates has received a $400,000 federal grant to upgrade its water system and make it more fire-resilient.

“This is huge,” said Gates mayor-elect Brian Gander, who will be sworn in Jan. 19. “We are a community without a large tax base to begin with … and it got smaller with the fires. One-third of our homes are going to have to be rebuilt.”

The rural development grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture was announced jointly Dec. 1 by U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden.

Gates will use the money for a backup power source at the reservoir above the town on Gates Hill Road as well as a grid-connected solar cell and battery, 44 replacement water filters, a steel mesh net wall to maintain road access and a new pump station.

New trees will have to be planted near the reservoir to help with erosion.

Gates lost roughly half of its structures during the September 2020 wildfires, which in turn exposed service lines and caused major system leaks. The fire damage rendered the current reservoir and pump station unfit for use by inhabitants, which is why the city plans to build a back-up system that can remain resilient without electricity.

“We have a good water system, but we have no city engineer and that can sometimes slow the process,” said Gander, who moved from councilor to acting mayor after the Sept. 29 death of Ron Carmickle. Gander received the most write-in votes on the Nov. 8 ballot, which still contained Carmickle’s name because he died after they were printed.

Gander noted that the city has until 2024 to spend the money and that there is flexibility built into the grant rules to apply it to other water system needs.

“Gates residents were greatly relieved to discover that through the support of the rural development grants we qualified for funding to build back our damaged infrastructure,” said Gander, whose council portfolio  includes water issues.

“Our water system now has a new telemetry system along with the upgrades to our water storage facility. Our water system is vital to our residents and to the city as a revenue source, (and) this grant has assured the water continues to flow and that we have revenues to support our constituents’ expectations. Thanks to our senators’ support at this critical time, we are able to meet the needs of our constituents.”

Wyden and Merkley offered comments on the grant in a press release.

“Gates, like many towns in Oregon, has made tremendous progress recovering from the catastrophic fire event in September of 2020, but the road is long and expensive,” Wyden said. “I am heartened to see the city of Gates seek out resilient solutions as we all build back from this disaster. A solar-powered back-up power source will ensure that the water facility in the heart of Gates will remain resilient and continue to provide vital services to the community for years to come.”

“I’ve been inspired by Oregonians’ resilience through the extreme weather events and catastrophic wildfires our state has experienced,” added Merkley. “Gates’ water facility operations were substantially damaged, and I’m pleased to see it receive this funding so it can continue providing critical services throughout the community.”

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