An outdated and undersized storage tank will be removed in the coming months to make way for a new one to ensure adequate fire protection and water pressure in Astoria's Skyline area.

City Public Works Director Mitch Mitchum said he has turned in a loan request to the state's Economic and Community Development Department for $750,000 to tear down the old elevated tank and replace it with a concrete basin, and other system upgrades.

"We're going to demolish that tank and then the plan, at the moment, is to build a concrete tank that won't be up on a tower but will be much larger," he said.

Mitchum said positive assurances from the state's development department during the pre-application process has encouraged him that the loan is almost a lock.

"We're confident we can get that loan," he said.

The city built a 70-foot tower in 1947 to accommodate a surplus military tank from World War II. That tank has provided fire protection water and water pressure for approximately 170 homes in the neighborhoods on Astoria's hilltops, which require an extra boost because most of the city's system is gravity fed.

As early as 1981, Mitchum said, evaluations indicated the 55-year-old tower's time had come. In 1992, a "structural study concluded that several structural members were severely corroded and several connections were uncertain," Mitchum wrote in the request for the loan.

Four years later, in 1996, the city contracted with the engineering consulting firm CH2M Hill, whose engineers also found the "reservoir was not structurally sound and was in need of a replacement."

At about that same time, Mitchum said the city wrote a master plan for its water system that included the tank replacement project. Part of that plan called for rate increases to pay for projects outright or to service loans.

"We have been working with the council to increase water and sewer rates gradually to build capital funds," he said. "Now we're at a point where we can afford some of the larger projects."

Despite its structural weaknesses, Mitchum said the tower is not on the verge of collapsing, it just probably wouldn't hold up in an earthquake. He said that had the tower posed a serious threat of collapse it would have been torn down immediately. As it is now, it should be able to stay standing until work crews bring it down, once plans are complete for the system that will replace it.

"What has to be designed is the replacement tank and a fair amount of the water line work," he said.

According to the loan request, the replacement system will include 3,600 lineal feet of new waterline for water distribution, construction of a booster pump station, six new fire hydrants to replace old ones and the new 170,000 gallon storage tank. The new tank will be seismically designed, Mitchum said.

The new tank will provide a continuous water supply for two hours to firefighters. Mitchum said the current tank's capacity would only last for about one third of that time.

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