GARDINER — Now that the possibility exists for the Gardiner Sanitary District, a project to replace a leaky sewer pipe under the Umpqua River could begin. The district has access to two grants, which total $2.4 million, if the board applies by a Dec. 31 deadline.

Becky Bryant is regional coordinator with the Oregon Business Development Department’s Infrastructure Finance Authority (IFA). She put together the package that was offered to GSD.

The GSD board had applied to the state and federal government in June for loans or grants to help it switch sewer service from the city of Reedsport to a wastewater facility at the International Paper site, north of Gardiner.

They were told, at that time, financing wasn’t available for the switch to the IP site.

Bryant said she didn’t give up trying to find a way to help.

“It was kind of a continued process,” she said. “I never stopped trying to figure out how to help finance the project. As we looked forward, and I worked with IFA management, we were getting ready to figure out how to go talk with the district.

She continued to work with J. Garrett Pallo, the district’s contract engineer from Civil West Engineering Services of Coos Bay.

“It just so happened that Garrett had called and was talking to me about what he had said to board,” Bryant said. “We were able to, kind of, mesh ideas and came out with that final package and then we ran into this is only going to work until Dec. 31.”

Garrett had told the district their best option was to remain with the Reedsport system and abandon the hope to move to the IP site. The board agreed at its Nov. 21 meeting.

The “force main,” as it’s called, has failed several times over the last 10 years; most recently in late September, when 40,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into the river.

Bryant said she was able to secure grants, rather than loans, for the project.

“Most of the grant is coming from a Community Development Block Grant,” she said, “which comes through our agency. They’re eligible for up to $2 million and, occasionally, we can do a waiver and look at the whole project. But, what we really looked at is the amount of time, especially that line, had been failing. The main goal was also looking at the cost of the project, the cost to the users but also how do we get this project done as quickly as possible to avoid another major break.”

Bryant said just over $1.9 million would come from the block grant. She said $500,000 would come from the Water/Wastewater Financing Program, also through the IFA.

Even if the district meets the Dec. 31 deadline and the grants are awarded the project is still expected to take at least two years to complete.

Douglas County, which refused to sign on to financing for a move to the IP site, appears ready to sign off on the project to fix the force main.

“The county is willing to sponsor the block grant,” Bryant said. “The block grant is going to pay for the collection system and the pumpstation upgrades that need to happen. The county agreed to apply on behalf of this project.”

GSD is an eligible applicant for the water/wastewater grant.

Bryant says she knows the GSD board had hoped to disconnect from the Reedsport system and move to the IP facility.

“I didn’t have an option of looking at the financing at the other project,” she explained, “because of the applicants and who would have to apply for that money. That was not something that they were interested in doing. As we looked at what was potentially available, and the best way to help the district, I really only had one project to look at.”

She had high praise for the GSD board to agree to remain with Reedsport and abandon plans to create a connection to the IP facility.

“I think they were really happy with the package that they were able to get for their second choice,” Bryant said. “I know, in their hearts, they worked very, very hard on their first choice.”

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