Ashland will move forward with the engineering and construction of the Talent-Ashland-Phoenix pipeline to bring water to town this summer despite costs that are twice what was previously estimated.
Faced with low snowpack in the Ashland watershed and anticipated summer drought, the Ashland City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to continue with the TAP project.
A March engineering report put the anticipated costs at $4.3 million, compared to a previous estimate of $2.3 million.
The $4.3 million figure includes a $947,000 contingency amount.
The TAP line already carries Medford Water Commission water to Talent. Ashland had planned to extend the line to town next year, but pushed the schedule up to this year because of drought conditions.
Costs to extend TAP are higher than expected because of the expedited schedule, an increase in construction costs and improvements in the line's design to boost its capacity from 1.5 million gallons per day to 2.3 million gallons per day.
Councilor Greg Lemhouse said he was frustrated that past councilors decided to delay the project several years ago, despite receiving warnings in 2008 that not having plans in place would increase the project's costs.
"Had we moved on this six years ago, we wouldn't be in this situation," Lemhouse said.
Though she voted with other councilors to move forward on TAP, Councilor Carol Voisin said she would rather see Ashland deal with water shortages through conservation.
"I don't like being dependent on Medford's water," Voisin said. She also voiced concerns that costs could rise past $4.3 million.
Councilor Mike Morris said it wouldn't be realistic to expect Ashland to drastically slash water use and rely only on conservation to deal with expected shortages this summer.
Ashland plans to delay some other water system projects past 2023 and secure a low-interest state loan to cover the increased TAP costs.
A contractor must be selected and begin construction in early May in order to supply Ashland with additional water by mid-August, according to city staff.
To try and create a competitive bidding situation despite the emergency circumstances, the city will contact up to five local pipeline contractors. Contractors will have two weeks to submit bids to the city, city staff said.