East Side of the Steens

Harney County, Oregon

Harney County Ordinance forms Crane Water & Sewer District

Harney County Ordinance Forms Crane Water & Sewer District

UPDATE December 7, 2023

After a public hearing and several listening sessions with the affected property owners and registered voters of Crane Oregon, and additional consultation with the Crane School District it has been decided that Harney County will not pursue the creation of a Water and Sanitary District in Crane, Oregon.

Any questions can be directed to the Harney County Court, Judge Bill Hart.

Previous Information

Harney County Court is by Ordinance forming a Crane Water and Sewer District.  There is a draft feasibility study linked below for the public’s review.  The new Ordinance is also linked below.

The next meeting regarding the Crane Water & Sewer District will be a Public Listening Session on November 9, 2023 at 6:00 p.m.

Zoom Link for Meeting: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/4344793664?pwd=TWdEbm5YTnpGRTlHV3E4SW1LOXM3Zz09

To submit public input via email, please message Tammy Renfro at tammy.renfro@harneycountyor.gov.

Additional Information

  • Can residences within the boundaries be compelled to connect to the water and sewer system:
    • For the water system, No.  Residence in the boundary cannot be compelled to connect to the water system.  It is highly recommended as this will alleviate some of the concerns with onsite septic issues.  Please keep in mind that even if they chose to connect and cease operation or utilizing the well on the property, the well will need to be decommissioned per Oregon Water Resource Rules.  There is a cost associated with decommissioning of a well.  I am not aware of what that all entails.  But residents need to be aware that there is a cost.
    • Connection to the sewer system can be compelled by the Board only when a septic system fails.  This only applies to residence with in the boundary of the district.  DEQ will not allow the issuance of a permit to residence that have access to a community or public sewer system.  The cost associated with this include: Sewer District Connection Fee and the cost of decommissioning a septic system.
      • The decommissioning of a septic system entails the pumping of the septic tank
      • Either removing the septic tank and disposing of it in a proper location (the dump) or crushing the tank in place and backfilling the hole with rock/debris.
      • They will also be responsible to notifying the Onsite Program of the decommissioning of the septic system, submit photos or call for an inspection and provide a pump receipt.
  • The Board will be the responsible party for developing Water and Sewer District Rules.   The Rules of the Board and general operating procedures will need to be drafted prior to obtaining a WPCF Permit from DEQ.  There are other communities that have Water and Sewer Systems and I would make the educated guess that the Board for the Crane Water and Sewer District will not have to reinvent the wheel when developing the SOP and Rules.
    • The rules will need to address connection Fees, who is responsible for what portion of the system (i.e.: Property owner is responsible for plumbing from the main to the home or use location), how the Board is going to address those who decide not to connect at the beginning of the project- are the fees to connect prorated over x amount of years?; will the Board require proof of decommissioned wells when water connection is made or sewer connection is made?  Etc.
  • As for the cost:
    • There are many concerns about the cost of connection for water and sewer.  I reached out to the City of Monument as their city sewer and water system is relatively ‘new’ and serves a similar sized population.
    • The annual city budget for the sewer system is $45,700.  This is fully loaded for personnel and all required maintenance of the sewer system.   Please know that the personnel is divided between at least two people.  One person is a City Maintenance Employee who does more than just the sewer system and the City Clerk who also does some of the technical sewer portion (testing/monitoring).
    • The annual city water budget is $39,000.  This is also fully loaded for personnel and all required maintenance of the water system.  Personnel have shared duties similar to the sewer system.
    • As their water and sewer system is approaching 30 years old, they are reaching a point where maintenance costs are increasing slightly as components need repaired or replaced.
    • **As of right now, there are only two properties that are within the boundaries of the city that are still on their own septic system.  This is allowed as the septic systems were ‘newer’ when the city installed the water and sewer system and they are functioning properly and are not failing nor are there any public health or environmental health concerns with the septic systems.  However, neither of the property’s will be issued a repair permit when the septic systems fail.  Both will be required to connect to the city sewer system at the time of failure.  The connection fee is $1,500 or the actual cost of connecting, whichever is more.  When the City of Monument installed the Water and Sewer System, the connection fee for each residence was waived.
    • The current monthly fee for water is $20.00.  The current monthly fee for sewer is $52.00.  This is a total of $72.00 a month for water and sewer service.

Additional information of Importance:


There are a total of 65 recorded wells with Oregon Water Resources.  Of those wells:

        • 6 belong to the Crane Fellowship Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
        • 10 belong to the Crane School
        • 7 wells have been abandoned
        • 6 wells are listed as irrigation wells
        • Average depth of wells is 186.5 feet.  Range of 20’ to 250’
        • Average depth to water is 64 feet
        • Average static water level is at 48.5 feet
        • Age of wells range from 1959 to 2021
        • Average yield of 57 gpm.  Range of 10 gpm to 650 gpm.


        • There are an estimated 45 to 50 homes in Crane (within the boundary)
        • There are an estimated 30 septic systems that have records.
        • This mean there are 15 to 20 septic systems that do not have any official records
        • The smaller the lot, the more challenging to install a repair for the septic system
        • Drain field are required by DEQ to be at least 100 feet away from all wells for a standard septic system
        • The average size of a drain field in the Crane area is 225 linear feet or an area of about 1,500 ft sq.  and the same available size for a repair area.
        • Setbacks from foundations, access roads, and wells limit the area available to install a drain field.  Septic tanks are required to be at least 50 feet from a well.

Professional Thoughts:

From an Environmental Health and Public Health stand point the development and installation of a community sewer and water system is a very important decision and will most likely be necessary in the future.  The reasoning behind this is that there are a large number of small lots with existing homes and septic systems along with wells that limit the ability to have a septic system or repair a septic system.  If a septic system can’t be replaced, the question becomes: What do we do now?  And there is no simple, cost effective, or good answer.

The Community of Crane is not alone in this situation.

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