(Wetlands | Photo courtesy of City of Prineville)
The City of Prineville is once again in the national spotlight. This time, for its environmental stewardship.
Two national organizations have recognized Prineville’s recently completed Crooked River Wetlands project as an outstanding contribution to environmental protection and clean water.
In November, the project was one of only five nationwide to be named Exceptional by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund program (CWSRF), which honors excellence and innovation in clean water infrastructure projects.
Also last month, the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) recognized the Crooked River Wetlands with its National Environmental Achievement Award. The honor was especially significant given that the nomination came from City of Vancouver staff, who felt the project deserved national attention.
“NACWA’s National Environmental Achievement Awards are a reflection of the incredible work that goes on 24/7 at our nation’s clean water agencies. This year’s honorees reflect the outstanding contributions to environmental protection and the clean water community that our members continually strive to achieve,” said Adam Krantz, NACWA chief executive officer.
In 2005, Prineville was tasked with upgrading its wastewater treatment facilities. Rather than build a $62 million mechanical plant that would consume a large amount of electricity and chemicals, city leaders opted for a more cost-effective and environmentally sensitive approach.
Completed in 2017, the Crooked River Wetlands is an innovative natural wastewater treatment system that established a 120-acre wetlands complex along the Crooked River. While the complex incorporates effective wastewater treatment, it also serves as an interactive community asset with hiking trails, wildlife-watching and educational kiosks.
The city explored alternatives to costly conventional wastewater treatment process expansions but determined that pursuing a wetlands was the most cost-effective. The project avoided a three-fold increase in System Development Charges and a doubling of customer sewer rates. Approximately half of the $7.7 million project investment was sourced from grants and partner funding.
“The Clean Water State Revolving Fund’s PISCES program recognizes community projects that utilize innovative techniques that improve the environment, public health, and the local economy,” said Dr. Andrew Sawyers, director of EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management. “The economic and creative aspects of this project provide many benefits for Prineville supporting the selection of the Crooked River Wetlands Complex as an Exceptional Project in this year’s PISCES Recognition Program.”
Features of the Crooked River Wetlands project include:
• Recreational Opportunities — Amenities include 5.4 miles of new walking, running and hiking trails, 3.25 miles of which are paved for use year-round. A covered pavilion and restrooms provide a gathering place prior to birdwatching, recreational hiking tour and community events.
• Educational — What could have been a standard public works project instead was designed as a hands-on educational asset that serves both school children and civic organizations. Local schools are incorporating the wetlands as part of their curriculum, including the design of thirteen kiosks, on topics ranging from the Crooked River Watershed
• Environmental Benefits — More than two miles of riparian improvements to the Crooked River have been implemented, as well as the construction of over 120 acres of wetlands, benefitting many species of fish and wildlife, including lower river temperatures.
“The Crooked River Wetlands project cements Prineville’s reputation as a leader in sensible, cost-effective and future-focused planning,” said Frank Dick, engineering supervisor for the City of Vancouver, Washington. “We were impressed with how the effort managed to both stabilize the City’s wastewater capacity and stabilize rates, and improve riparian and water conditions in the Crooked River. Plus, the benefits to Oregonians and visitors enjoying the whole river system is something for which the citizens of Prineville can be proud.”