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Friday, August 13, 2010

On Forbidden Ground: The Bull Run Watershed

Posted by Stefan Kamph on Fri, Aug 13, 2010 at 10:49 AM

ALL ABOARD: The Randy-bus.
  • ALL ABOARD: The Randy-bus.
For most of the year, Portland gets its drinking water from the 139-square-mile Bull Run watershed deep in the Mount Hood National Forest. Water from Bull Run Lake and the connected river flow into two man-made reservoirs that feed the city's drinking water system. Most of the time, the forested area that makes up the watershed is completely off-limits to human traffic: Elk poop in your water* is bad enough without human interference.

But City Commissioner Randy Leonard, guardian of Portland's water whether it's gushing out of your tap, fire hoses, or you, thinks people should get a glimpse of the natural beauty that makes our water system unique.

Oregonian reporter Janie Har went along for a tour of the watershed. Of Leonard, she writes: "He approved the purchase of a 26-person van for $110,000 in 2006 and authorized a contest for children to design the art that now wraps itself in crayon colors around the bus."

Mentioned in a photo caption, but not in the article, is this little historical gem:

In the 1890s, Gov. Sylvester Pennoyer initially vetoed the idea of a municipal water system, saying that melt from the mountain would cause "goiter" to the "fairer sex." Turns out he was in cahoots with the private water company that didn't want a public water system.

*Just kidding. While elk may indeed poop in the reservoirs, the water is treated with chlorine and ammonia before heading to Portland, and an ultraviolet filtration system will be installed to meet new federal requirements.

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