By now, seismic experts are confident saying there's a 35 percent chance that a massive earthquake-triggering rupture will hit the Cascadia Subduction Zone fault line—which runs to the east of Portland—in next 50 years. It's serious enough for Portland City Council to start doubling down on costly reforms to protect city utilities and stabilize collapsable buildings.
With that in mind, commissioners approved a $73.5 million contract with a company based in Dallas, Oregon to bury a 4,500-foot-long pipe 80 feet under the Willamette River. Unlike the city's $1.4 billion "Big Pipe" project, which created massive underground tunnels on both sides of the Willamette, this pipe won't be filled with poop and other toxic water globs. This pipe will carry drinking water from the Eastside's water reservoirs to the Westside in a pipe that's expected to withstand the massive earthquake we're patiently waiting to strike at any moment.
Portland already has six pipes the stretch across the under the Willamette—both under the river and across bridges—to transport water and from the east to the west. But earthquake experts say those current pipes "are at significant risk of failure" once a earthquake hits, leaving the Westside without potable water for up to six months.
This new pipe project, dubbed the Willamette River Crossing, is expected to start construction in 2022.
The Portland Water Bureau hinted at a future wrinkle that may irk Southeast Portlanders: The pipe will require constructors to dig into private property (thanks to eminent domain) to connect the pipe to... other pipes. PWB will host a number of community meetings in 2019 to hash out those details.