• Erik Ursin

Just when things were slowing a bit in the fight over Portland's much-revered Bull Run watershed, a new challenger emerges!

A group called Cascadian Public Trust Initiative unveiled a new effort last night to land a measure on the May November 2014 ballot. It's essentially a wish list from Portland's water activist community: The measure would require a public vote for major changes to city's water system— ahem, fluoride—and force officials to resume the fight to keep Portland's open air reservoirs, among other things.

A water initiative already gathering signatures involves an unlikely melding of big industry and water activists. This new push is more typical of what we're used to in Portland's water activism—a mix of the Occupy Mount Tabor types that rallied earlier this year against shuttering of Portland's open-air reservoirs and the anti-Fluoride folks who trounced that cavity-fighting additive in May.

The group appears to look equally askance at City of Portland stewardship of the water system, and that of a proposed body that would take control of the city's water and sewer bureaus under the other initiative, pushed by the group Portlanders for Water Reform.

"Portlanders for Water Reform has centered much of its concerns around a looming 44% increase in water rates and the lack of transparency and public control over the water," chief petitioner Jonah Majure writes on the new group's Facebook page. "Backers of this initiative include many longtime community activists; however, many of the corporations and wealthy elite that waste and pollute our water at a high rate are also heavily invested in Portlanders for Water Reform. Nick Fish and the rest of City Council, as well as many Portlanders, have concerns about undue corporate influence over the new board as well as the removal of essential environmental protections that make our water far superior to municipalities around the world."

The actual measure being submitted by the Cascadian Public Trust Initiative today partly formalizes the water bureau's current authority—requiring it to maintain the system and deliver us potable water. But it appears the measure, if passed, would also require the city to continue a fight against the Environmental Protection Agency's "LT2" rule, the policy that has us on the verge of draining open-air reservoirs on Mt. Tabor and in Washington Park, and building massive new holding tanks on Powell and Kelly buttes.

And the measure requires officials to "to avoid adding any chemicals to the water supply that are not specifically for treating the water to make it safe to drink." Proposed new additives would require a public vote, avoiding a situation where city council can vote to fluoridate the water supply on its own.

Other provisions:

•a conflict of interest provision in the measure would require elected officials to disclose contributions of more than $50 from people who stand to gain from policy decisions by that official. Anyone with such a conflict would need to recuse themselves.

•the water bureau would need to respond to public records requests under strict timelines

•an independent evaluation of city water policies would be required every two years.

•a prohibition against selling or ceding control to the water system to any entity beyond the scope of the City of Portland.

The measure will apparently be submitted to city elections officials today, beginning the march toward approved ballot language and signature gathering. Activists need nearly 30,000 valid signatures by early July to make the November ballot.

This new push complicates things for the people trying to snatch control of water and sewer services from city council. If both water initiatives hit their signature target, it's conceivable the new effort could take steam from the existing proposal.

More on this when I get ahold of people.