The Work Continues to Create a Better Tomorrow for the Santiam Canyon.
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With the support of Marion County and the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments (MWVCOG), the communities of Detroit, Gates, Idanha and Mill City have been in regular discussions regarding the governance and feasibility of a joint sewer system to serve their communities wastewater needs. Three communities (Detroit, Gates and Idanha) currently rely on individual septic systems while Mill City maintains a STEP sewer system. In January 2017, a feasibility study titled, “North Santiam Canyon Regional Wastewater Analysis” was completed and identified the need for further facility planning for these communities to best identify potential next steps.

Why does this matter?  

This project is necessary to protect the North Santiam Watershed from widespread toxic septic system failures. The water from this watershed serves more than 200,000 residents daily.  Three of the four cities have individual septic systems which all have the potential to fail, as they are quite old.  The alternative is that when septic systems or drain fields fail, the cost of septic system replacement will be higher. In some cases where lot sizes are small, shallow water table exists or has an unfavorable soil composition; new septic or occupancy permits cannot be authorized by regulation for the replacement of a septic system. This is a current reality for some properties in Detroit, Gates and Idanha.  Mill City is likely to need upgrades to their current wastewater system in the next decade and can benefit from a joint sewer project. In addition, a sewer system will allow for economic redevelopment of existing properties.


The proposed sewer system will occur between Detroit and Idanha, and between Gates and Mill City.  All four cities will benefit, as economic development for retail and industry will then be possible, as drain field size will not be a factor.  Housing developments will be feasible, as very expensive septic systems will not need to be installed.  The newly constructed home may simply hook up to the sewer system.  


Why hasn't something been done about this before?  Grant funds are necessary as these communities in the Santiam Canyon are severely economically depressed.  The homeowners are on the low end of the socioeconomic spectrum and cannot afford the expensive new septic systems.  Many are retired and on fixed incomes. The grant is the only way that this project can get off the ground.  Initial estimates for individual residential users are to be approximately $50-$55 a month for sewer service, if this system can be developed and built.