Work on a 3,400-foot-long water pipe that will connect a new 2.5-million-gallon reservoir to the city water system should begin in the next couple weeks. The new tank will replace one that might be vulnerable in an earthquake.

Table Rock Excavation was awarded a $556,307 contract to put in the 16-inch line that will connect a new site off Helms Road to a main line under Talent Avenue. A pre-construction meeting is set for Wednesday, and work is to be completed by March 1, said Brett Marshall, city public works director.

“We have had two structural engineers look at (the old reservoir). They said it would not survive any significant seismic event of any kind,” said Marshall. “We are just in the process of a new Water Master Plan that shows we will have enough storage capacity for at least the next 20 years.”

Seven bids were received for the project. Pilot Rock’s bid was the lowest and under the $700,000 engineering estimated cost for the work. The line will run under Rogue River Parkway. A tunnel will be bored under the CORP railroad tracks. The Talent Irrigation District canal in the area will be breached, then repaired to accommodate the line, which will continue past Helms Road.

Waterline work is Phase 1 of the new reservoir project. Phase 2, the reservoir, will be put out for bid in February, said Marshall. He hopes that work can start shortly after completion of the line. A timeline for reservoir work has not yet been established.

Pipeline work will be paid for out of a more than $3 million loan the city negotiated with Business Oregon, which administers federal funds for infrastructure projects. The loan will also be used for construction of the reservoir. Up to $1 million of the loan can be forgiven.

A 2016 routine inspection of the 1973 1.5-million-gallon tank at the Belmont Road site found large pieces of cement coating had broken away, exposing retention cables. A seismic engineer determined there was need for a major structural retrofit or replacement of the tank.

“One of the engineers said basically to retrofit and repair the tank to seismic standards would be as costly if not costlier than a replacement,” said Marshall.

A second million-gallon tank at the Belmont site was built in 2001. A third reservoir that holds a half-million gallons is located on Wagner Creek. Talent bought 1.5 acres of land east of Helms Road and an easement for $200,000 in 2008 for the new tank.

Work on the Water Master Plan for the city has revealed that current water rates and system development charges are not sufficient to cover future capital improvement water projects, City Manager Sandra Spelliscy informed the Talent City Council at its first December meeting.

“We are looking at a discussion to raise both SDCs and customer rates,” said Spells. “We are not collecting enough to cover the budgeted amounts the last couple of budget years. We have sort of been behind the curve for a while.”

A SDC rate study was last done in 2004. At that time City Council opted to collect only 50 percent of the recommended amounts, Spelliscy said.

Another area of concern for the water system is service to approximately 40 customers outside city limits, Spelliscy said. Most of those are located along Rapp and Wagner Creek roads, and there are significant infrastructure issues involved with the system in that area, she said.

Rachel Lanigan with RH2 Engineering, Medford, has been preparing the master plan. Marshall said a final draft of the plan may be finished next week.