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Prineville Opens Wetlands, Environmentally-friendly Wastewater Treatment Plant in Earth Day Celebration

Erin McDuff
Release Date

Today, the City of Prineville in central Oregon celebrated Earth Day with the grand opening of the new Crooked River Wetlands. A component of the city’s wastewater system improvements funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development along with state and local partners, the wetlands will utilize the natural environment to gradually reintroduce clean, treated wastewater into the Crooked River, a process that will reduce sediment and maintain the cool water temperatures necessary for salmon and other species. This $7.7 million project will improve water quality and provide recreational opportunities for residents while enabling the city to meet its growing needs.

“This environmentally-friendly wastewater treatment system reflects the local community’s commitment to preserve its natural resources and support outdoor recreation,” said USDA Rural Development Acting State Director Jill Rees. “At the same time, it ensures local residents and businesses have access to the utilities they need while positioning Prineville to grow and maintain a thriving economy for years to come.”

Prineville’s former wastewater system began operation in 1960, when the city’s population was just 3,260. Today, it would need to serve nearly three times as many residents, and counting, with Facebook having opened its first data center in this rural community in 2011, and with Apple having announced plans to build its third data center in the area.

With assistance from a USDA Rural Development loan of $4 million and a grant of $1 million provided through the Water and Waste Disposal Program, along with funding from state and local partners, the city installed new sewer main lines, upgraded its pump station, and made improvements to the existing lagoon aeration system.

The key feature of this project is the addition of 120 acres of wetlands, which increases the plant’s capacity while eliminating its need to discharge treated wastewater directly into the Crooked River, improving water quality and benefiting numerous species of fish and wildlife. The wetlands also feature over five miles of new hiking trails, more than half of which are paved for year-round use. In addition, local school children helped to develop 13 educational kiosks that are located around the wetlands.

The improved wastewater system has been designed to meet Prineville’s needs for the next several decades, and the system is easily expandable to address the city’s requirements beyond that timeframe. This innovative solution to the city’s wastewater requirements is also significantly less expensive than the alternative of building a mechanical treatment plant, saving Prineville $57 million over the life of the project.

By utilizing the natural environment, Prineville is substantially reducing its costs, helping to stabilize future utility rates and support a thriving local economy, while also protecting water quality and a healthy watershed for future generations. The Crooked River Wetlands exemplifies environmentally-friendly growth and development in rural areas.