Baker City’s new drinking water well is finished, but considerably more work is needed before it starts putting water into pipes.

The city’s contract, Schneider Water Services of St. Paul, near Salem, finished drilling the well last week, said Michelle Owen, the city’s public works director.

The company drilled down 654 feet at the site on the east side of the parking lot at the city-owned Quail Ridge Golf Course at 2801 Indiana Ave., Owen said.

The company had estimated the well, which has a casing 12 inches in diameter, would be about 700 feet deep.

Owen said a brief pumping test showed good water quality, Owen said.

A liner for the well, which will be custom made, has been ordered and should arrive within a couple weeks, she said.

Schneider Water Services workers will return in May to install the liner, install a test pump, finish pump tests and video the well. They should be finished by early June, Owen said.

The City Council voted in April 2020 to hire the company to drill the well, at a cost of $677,000.

Drilling started in early October 2020, and initial progress was slower than the company expected as the drill encountered thicker layers of clay soils that anticipated based on the drilling logs from an older well elsewhere on the golf course.

The second, and more expensive, phase of the well project will go out for bid soon, Owen said.

The work includes building a well house and install the piping to connect the well to the distribution system. That phase will cost an estimated $2 million. Owen said work likely will start in September 2021.

The well should be available to start delivering water to homes and businesses in the spring of 2022.

Owen said the goal is for the well to produce about 1,500 gallons per minute, approximately 2.16 million gallons per day.

The city will use the well both during the summer, when water demand peaks but the volume from the streams and springs in the city’s watershed drops. The well will also be beneficial in some years during spring, when rapidly melting snow in the watershed, which is in the Elkhorn Mountains west of town, can temporarily cloud streams with silt.

The new well is one of the major projects that prompted the City Council to boost water rates by 10% in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Those increases will pay for the well and for the continuation of a long-term effort to replace the century-old, leaky concrete pipeline that brings water to town from the city’s watershed.

The new well will be the city’s second.

The other well, which the city drilled in 1977 near its water treatment plant and reservoir on the hill near Reservoir Road, is about 800 feet deep.

Owen said the new well, like the existing one, will be part of the city’s Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) system.

Baker City was the first Oregon city to receive a state permit allowing it to divert water from surface sources — the watershed streams and springs — into a well during the winter when the watershed produces far more water than the city needs.

That water is stored in the well aquifer and can be pumped later into the city’s distribution system.

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