Port Townsend City Council punts mill lease through end of 2021

Posted 3/10/21

The city of Port Townsend has agreed to push out a temporary operational lease with the Port Townsend Paper Corporation for use of the Olympic Gravity Water System through the end of 2021.

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Port Townsend City Council punts mill lease through end of 2021

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The city of Port Townsend has agreed to push out a temporary operational lease with the Port Townsend Paper Corporation for use of the Olympic Gravity Water System through the end of 2021.

During a meeting of the Port Townsend City Council last week, Public Works Director Steve King said negotiations — which sought to have a new lease nailed down much sooner — have been hindered by the pandemic.

“The Port Townsend Paper Mill lease ran out in March 2020 and managers authorized to execute a lease extension for up to a year,” King said.

“We have not been able to complete the negotiation of the lease,” he added. “We have a schedule planned to complete the lease this year, including finishing value engineering studies and working through the negotiation, with an anticipated completion date in the fall of 2021.”

A necessary part of the negotiations, King said, was planning for the next 20, 50 and 100 years by the city and the Port Townsend Paper Company.

The company also oversees general maintenance and day-to-day operations of the water system. Since 1928, the city has worked in tandem with the mill to divert water from the Quilcene Watershed to two reservoirs at Lords and City lakes, which can store up to 640 million gallons.

Today, the 28-mile-plus stretch of 24-inch and 30-inch steel pipeline that makes up the Olympic Gravity Water System is responsible for delivering between 10 million and 14 million gallons of water per day to Port Townsend and the mill, with the majority of the water being used by the mill.

While most of the work on the system is handled by the mill, the city still monitors and treats drinking water.   

Section replacements will be needed for the pipeline in the future.

Nine miles of pipe, which date back to around 1928 when the system was first built, are becoming rather worn.

An additional 19 miles of the line is newer — put in between the 1950s and 1970s. It, too, will likely need to be replaced, city officials said.

Preliminary estimates to replace the aging pipes came in at about $113 million. Just to replace the oldest 9 miles of pipe has been estimated to cost $43 million.

King noted the estimates were very preliminary figures and the real cost may look very different as the city works to replace the aging lines.

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