June 1, 1998
Duvall's artesian well to close after new hookups completed
by Barbara Sullivan
DUVALL--At a sparsely attended meeting last week to decide the fate of the Taylor Landing artesian well, Mayor Glen Kuntz summed up the recent history of the well. In the past two years since the last meeting at Cedarcrest (which was well attended by well-users, the media and local politicians), not much progress has been made, he said. The city has looked into possibilities of allowing an organized group of well-users to take over management and operation of the well. "But there is no way to relieve the liability issue for the city," said Kuntz. "Nor does the city want to lose the rights to the well permanently as would be the case if it were sold to the group." That possible solution has met a dead end.
The Taylor Landing Well User's Association, which initially presented the idea to the mayor nearly two years ago, has not been in contact with the city or Water District 119. Since then, the well has remained open on a month-to-month basis, and the impetus to reach a permanent solution seems to have fizzled. The other possibility (short of applying to Water District 119 for permanent individual home service) is the installation of a standpipe connected to the water district's water supply. This option has been explored previously by the city and the water district. At last week's meeting, Malcolm Harris, water district attorney, covered the expectations and conditions necessary for such a solution to be viable.
Harris said the district is willing to keep an open mind, but the following conditions would need to be met:
Harris wrapped up the district's position by saying there are "a lot of people who have had a free ride and are comfortable with the situation, and think it will continue forever." He reconfirmed that, with the exception of one or two small groups, no one from the well-users has come to the district in the past two years to follow through with a solution. "Get together and form a plan and we're willing to listen," Harris said to the well-users. "You must get yourselves organized and petition. We can only respond to petitions."
- There has to be a site available, near an existing water line. Currently the water district owns no such property that is large enough to handle the traffic pulling in and out, turnarounds and so on. Real estate would have to be purchased or leased.
- "There is no such thing as free water," stated Harris. The district purchases their water from the city of Seattle and would in turn sell water to the well-users. There would need to be a mechanism to monitor the water from the standpipe and charge families using it accordingly. These additional costs of installing and then monitoring should not be born by the water district customers but would be paid for by the users of the standpipe.
- While the water district is willing to explore this option, it is a short term measure only. Users would agree to begin the petitioning process for future water service.
- Standpipe-users would face the same legal hurdles (compliance with county and public health and safety rules and permitting procedures) as other petitioners.
Several well-users in the audience took offense to the remark by Harris that their use of the well had been a "free ride." "If you think it's a free ride and we enjoy hauling water, you're very much mistaken," said one woman. Another man told Harris it's not been a free ride when you "calculate the hassle of the time it takes."
Harris responded by apologizing for any unintended "flippancy" that his wording may have implied and again urged the well-users to get organized and work toward a solution. Some well-users have used the last two years to organize themselves and other landowners in the area and apply to Water District 119 for public water service. Both Kuntz and Harris commended the efforts of one group of well users (spearheaded by Duvall resident Jeff Popp), who are nearing the completion phase of their petitioning the district for service.
Nearly two years ago, following the last meeting at Cedarcrest, Popp organized other landowners in the Blueberry Heights and Cherry Valley region northeast of Duvall and began the lengthy process of applying for annexation and hookup for water service from the district. The cost is about $12,000 to $13,000 per household, payable over 15 years with low interest rates. The estimated average cost per household comes to about $900 to $1,000 per year or slightly higher. According to district commissioner Roy Wickstrom, the lines will be in and service will begin to those landowners in October or November of this year.
Kuntz then said officials are going to put a deadline on the artesian well. "The city is going to cap it," he said. Initially the mayor pushed for permanent closure of the well in 60 days, however that meant the users actively petitioning the district would have a gap from the end of July to the fall hookup dates with no water available.