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Environmental Groups Oppose Forming Portland Water, Sewer Board

Water pours from a Portland faucet (file).

Water pours from a Portland faucet (file).

Rebecca Roberts Galloway/OPB

A slew of environmental groups have come out against an effort to form an independent board to manage Portland’s water and sewer services. A coalition of industrial water users and the watchdog group, Friends of Reservoirs, announced the effort last week to form a separately-elected utility board.

Willamette Riverkeeper, the Oregon Environmental Council and Friends of Trees are among at least eight groups to announce their opposition Friday.

Bob Sallinger, with the Audubon Society of Portland, said the groups agree that a separate board could more easily succumb to industrial interests.

“I think it’s important to note that many groups that have worked both with and against the city - for many, many years - are opposing this,” he said. “And the reason they’re opposing this is that they think it’s going to make things worse, not better.”

Supporters of a new board argue it could respond better to Portland priorities - such as preserving the city’s open reservoirs.

Environmental groups say protecting Portland’s reservoirs is a “laudable” effort. But they defend the job the city’s environmental services bureau has done to divert sewage from the Willamette River.