A showdown is about to happen on Mt Tabor. Activists and neighborhood organizers are preparing to set up Camp Cascadia in protest of city hall’s failure to secure an LT2 waiver to the costly mandated burying of Portland’s historic water reservoirs. According to organizers, this protest is about far more than just the reservoirs themselves. This is about the quality of the Bull Run tap water, this is about citizen rights to the city itself, and this is about the potential privatization of our entire regional water supply. There is much at stake. Starting this Friday, the progression of events in this struggle will chart a new course.
Local press has been itching for this occupation. Occupy Mt. Tabor/Camp Cascadia organizer Jessie Sponberg was interviewed by both Willamette Week and Portland Mercury this week. Sponberg explained the action, “I’m going to show up there with a dome tent and about 200 really awesome people that care about our water. People are honestly going to get priced out of [their] water, and then we’ll privatize it, and then we’ll sell it. Because to come up with that $400 million dollars, we’re going have to borrow that money from Wall Street.” Added Sponberg, “Our city leaders have thrown their hands up and forfeited way too early – before they exhausted all their options. The occupation of Mt. Tabor is a serious last-ditch effort.”
At a recent community meeting at Rain Or Shine Coffee House, about two dozen concerned citizens were informed on the issue, and discussed last minute logistics for the upcoming occupation. Speakers stressed the fact that the city has not actually requested the LT2 waiver from the EPA or the Oregon Health Authority. They also urged people to contact key political players involved that could halt the dismantling of the Tabor reservoirs; mayor Charlie Hales, commissioner Nick Fish who oversees the Water Bureau, and Senator Jeff Merkley, who has unfortunately indicated his stance is drawn from that of city hall.
Learning about the issues at Rain Or Shine Coffee
Rain Or Shine Coffee, as it happens, sits directly across the street from a gated private property development that used to be part of Mt. Tabor Park until the city chopped it off and sold it around 1990. More recently, neighborhood activists caught the city trying to sell off another 8 acres of the park in 2006. There is real fear that with the reservoirs, city hall will again attempt to profit from selling off public land to enrich themselves and their wealthy developer friends. Both Charlie Hales’ former employer HDR and retired water bureau engineer Joe Glicker’s firms CH2M HILL and Montgomery Watson Harza are already making or stand to make big bucks off LT2 and privatization.
Neighborhood organizer Dawn Smallman stressed the importance of the occupation including the diverse range of groups opposed to LT2 consisting of neighborhood association members, veterans of the recent fluoridation fight, and business owners suing the city over misuse of water bureau funds and rate increases. Microbiologist Scott Fernandez of BullRunWaiver.org warned of the dangers that bacteria and radon accumulation pose in buried reservoirs, “Over 20,000 people die from radon inhalation each year. Drinking water with radon in it would spread this radioactive material throughout the entire body.”
The meeting concluded with many thank you’s from poeple eager to learn about what the city is doing to their water. There was a shared appreciation of how the occupation would help bring this issue into critical focus for the public. Most at the meeting were neighbors who live near Mt. Tabor, but all understood that what happens to our water effects all Portlanders, as well as their pets, their gardens, and their children.
The beloved Mt. Tabor reservoirs are an engineering marvel. Designing them open-air allows radon and other underground gases to dissipate at no cost to ratepayers while permitting sunlight to naturally disinfect our water. The very reason our reservoirs are on the National Historic Registry is due largely to the tireless work of historian and activist Cascade Anderson Geller, who recently passed away. In addition to being an herbalist, a renowned teacher, and co-founder of Portland’s first food co-ops, Geller fought to enshrine the Tabor reservoirs as part of Portland’s future for generations to come. Her legacy, and the legacy of the reservoirs themselves are well worth defending.
City hall has chosen not to fight for clean, safe drinking water. Instead, they make multi-million dollar deals with developers, selling off public commons in the process. This has to stop. The people of Portland deserve a say in how their water is managed. Since this issue hasn’t been resolved by politicians, it is now up to the friends and neighbors of Portland to make a difference. To save our reservoirs and our water, we demand the LT2 waiver.
Please join Camp Cascadia and the occupation of Mt. Tabor starting this Friday, 5pm, at the corner of SE Hawthorne Boulevard and SE 60th Avenue. If possible, please bring food and water to share. Facebook event page is HERE.
• For audio from a KBOO interview with Scott Fernandez, click HERE.
• For more information on the LT2 waiver, please visit BullRunWaiver.org.
• For continuing Rebel Metropolis coverage of this ongoing conflict, click HERE.