Seal Rock’s drinking water was in danger.
For nearly 50 years, Seal Rock Water District (SRWD) relied on water purchased from the nearby town of Toledo, Oregon. The water could only be delivered through a 7-mile-long, underground pipeline. Already prone to landslides and washouts, the decades old pipeline was also located within the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Any significant seismic or tsunami event had the potential to take the pipeline out of service for weeks or months. For the water district's growing customer base, the situation was costly and precarious.
Still, past attempts at addressing these issues had failed, due in large part to what residents felt was a lack of open communication. When SRWD located the best site for Seal Rock’s new water source, odds looked grim once again. Beaver Creek was a scenic river in the heart of protected wetlands, beloved by kayakers, conservationists, and the private homeowners who lived along its banks. It seemed unlikely that local stakeholders would agree to the new development, but SRWD General Manager Adam Denlinger put his faith in a tried and true Oregonian tradition: Collaboration.
Denlinger approached the problem from common ground: Everyone wanted safe, sustainable drinking water for Seal Rock just as much as they wanted to protect the breathtaking natural beauty around them. Rather than run from passionate local conservation groups, SWRD worked with them to minimize any potential environmental impact. By engaging stakeholders with open minds and listening ears, SWRD built the private and public partnerships necessary to make the move possible, but the project would still cost the small district millions of dollars to complete. The price tag was almost too much for the rural community, but Denlinger brought one more partner to the table: USDA Rural Development.
With a $1.5 million Water and Waste Disposal Grant, SRWD was able to build a new treatment plant and 500,000-gallon reservoir above the coastal tsunami impact zone, as well as install emergency backup generators. The new system was not only more resilient but also capable of monitoring for leaks or unintentional overuse, saving residents’ money while significantly conserving water.
“Small rural community water and wastewater system provide a vital service which helps to improve the lives of those living in rural Oregon. We would be unable to deliver this service without support and resources provided by our partner funding agencies like USDA-RD,” said Denlinger.
After years of hard work and collaboration, the new treatment plant opened in October 2022. The plant’s placement and high environmental standards minimizes any disturbance to nearby homeowners or protected species. Water no longer has to flow through an aging, vulnerable pipeline, and the facility's emergency equipment can keep it running after a earthquake. Overall, the new facility is more better for the environment and the people it serves. Thanks to partners like USDA Rural Development, Seal Rock Water District now has safe, sustainable water, no matter what the future brings.