• Erik Ursin

It appears Portlanders will be spared a second debate on the future of city's water system this year. The grassroots activists behind a proposal to give citizens more oversight over Portland's drinking water supply tell the Mercury they've suspended the campaign.

"We've been regrouping and presenting to major organizations for a 2016 run," says Jonah Majure, chief petitioner behind the Cascadian Public Trust Initiative. The campaign would have needed to submit nearly 30,000 valid signatures by July 7 in order to make the November ballot.

Announced in late October—just a few months after the now-failed effort to put Portland's water and sewer services in the hands of a new board—the trust was a novel idea. As the Mercury reported in November, it cribbed notions from a newly viable front in environmental law. In short: If you didn't think Portland was managing its water supply in the public interest, you could sue.

But the proposal also contained a wish list of sorts for activists. It would have required a citywide vote before chemicals like fluoride can be added to the water supply. And it would have forced officials to keep fighting federal rules that have the city building costly new reservoirs on Kelly and Powell buttes, and preparing to close open-air reservoirs on Mount Tabor and in Washington Park.

According to Majure, much of the momentum for the proposal was lost to the fight against the Portland Public Water District, which was trounced in the May 20 election. The opposition to that effort was headed up by Mayor Charlie Hales.

"The PPWD debate confused a lot of folks and a lot of community organizations spent a lot of their energy working on Charlie Hales' (political action committee)," Majure says. He says his group will rewrite its proposal and resubmit it in coming months.

The decision to suspend the campaign means Portland won't have three votes on its water supply in just two years. In May 2013, voters rejected a proposal to add fluoride to tap water.