National Award, Commissioners honor WES for Innovative Outreach Campaign During Pandemic that Secured Vital Wastewater Infrastructure Project

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The Clackamas County Board of Commissioners recognized Clackamas Water Environment Services (WES) for receiving a 2023 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo).

The award, honoring WES’ “Tri-City Outfall Project Outreach during the Pandemic,” was given in the category of County Resiliency: Civic Education and Public Information.

At their business meeting on Thursday, August 17, 2023, Commissioners complimented WES for how the department conducted the 2020 outreach effort working with Clackamas County’s Public and Government Affairs.

During the first months of the historic pandemic, when in-person presentations were not an option, WES developed innovative and unprecedented methods to educate stakeholders about a vital wastewater infrastructure project that required voter approval.

The project involved an outfall pipeline that would run from WES’ wastewater treatment facility and under Jon Storm Park in Oregon City before reaching the bottom of the Willamette River, where the outfall would discharge cleaned wastewater.

Because the pipeline would run under a city park, Oregon City's charter required a vote of residents to authorize such construction.

Utilizing an innovative, short-term communications strategy, WES successfully educated Oregon City residents and stakeholders about the importance of the Tri-City Water Resource Recovery Facility Outfall Project and why it was needed to meet the entire region’s wastewater treatment needs for decades to come.

Although voters in one city would decide the fate of the project, the entire WES Service Area with, about 200,000 customers in several cities, would be affected by the outcome.    
On November 3, 2020, Oregon City voters overwhelmingly approved the project by a 73% - 27% margin.

Had voters rejected the measure, a possible alternative project would have cost at least tens of millions of dollars more and also faced an uncertain outcome due to several geographical and logistical obstacles.

Shelly Parini, External Affairs for WES, told Commissioners that constructive lessons were learned during her time working on the outreach.

“We learned that people care deeply about the future of clean water, and they value understanding what it takes to keep our rivers healthy and watersheds vital,” said Parini. “We also learned that safeguarding a clean water future where all people benefit and rivers thrive requires partnerships. It means working together on big projects.”

WES Capital Program Manager Jeff Stallard told Commissioners there will be several peripheral benefits.

“The project, which I’m pleased to report will start construction in 2024, will also include area enhancements such as native landscaping, riverbank restoration, trails and other identified needs within the City of Oregon City’s park plans,” Stallard said.

The outfall project is fully funded through WES' Capital Improvement Plan.

Watch WES’ NACo Award Presentation to Clackamas County Commissioners            

NACo serves more than three million county employees and three thousand county governments, collaborating on ways to better serve residents.

Each year, NACo recognizes counties for programs that modernize county government and improve services for residents.

Programs are judged on:

  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Effectiveness
  • Measurable results
  • Enhanced citizen participation
  • Increased public understanding of government programs

Learn more about the National Association of Counties (NACo)