The Battle for Mt. Tabor

Overshadowing Southeast 60th Avenue is the massive Reservoir Six. Situated firmly at the west side of Mt Tabor, this bastion of clean water now sits empty after a recent decision by the City of Portland to drain, cover, and disconnect the reservoir to comply with the much disputed Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule (LT2).

While the City may have thrown in the towel when it comes to fighting this federal requirement, Portland residents are not giving up that easy. In one of their latest attempts to stop what they believe to be an unnecessary and expensive course of action, hundreds of community members gathered to “Occupy Mount Tabor” on July 12th in protest. 

Despite a police presence and closures at the park’s entrances, protesters remained largely peaceful and compliant. A number of people set up tents, laid out blankets for picnics, and even set up large numbers of Cascadia flags. Many passer-byers honked their horns in response to a number of protester’s signs, and many people were smiling and waving to everyone who came through or passed by. The largely positive response from casual observers bolstered the strength of the group’s message, and undoubtedly helped with obtaining coverage by the media, who also were present throughout the area. 

The cause has united a broad and diverse group of citizens passionate about protecting Portland’s drinking water system and fiscal responsibility. Groups include representatives from Camp Cascadia, a sub-group of the Occupy Movement; the Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association; and Save Our Reservoirs.

Although many of the groups who have rallied around this cause come at it from different angles, all agree that the City isn’t doing enough to preserve Portland’s reservoirs and that City Council members are being disingenuous when they claim that they have exhausted all of their options. In fact, demonstrators have put forward a number of different strategies that the City could employ, including enlisting the assistance of the Oregon Congressional Delegation in:
        
  • Gaining a lengthy deferral from the Oregon Health Authority for LT2 compliance  until  the mandate is reviewed by the EPA in 2016.
  • Drafting legislation to gain permanent relief from the LT2 rule. 
  • Pursuing an EPA Safe Drinking Water Act Waiver exempting Portland from the LT2  rule.
                               
Occupy Mount Tabor may have ended after four days but demonstrators have not lost hope.  Because for those that are pushing back against the City, this issue was never just about the beauty of our historic reservoirs, but rather about the right to clean water at a fair price, decision makers putting politic before the interests of the citizens, and the lack of a public process and citizen involvement.