Northwest NEWS

December 7, 1998

Local News

City may take stand on petroleum pipeline

by Andrew Walgamott, staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--The Woodinville City Council will discuss the Cross Cascade Pipeline tonight, Dec. 7, possibly adopting a position statement, despite the fact the proposed petroleum line would not come within two-and-a-half miles of a city street, mailbox, or "Welcome to Town" sign.

   Still, one councilmember says it's a regional issue, and a leak could affect groundwater for area residents. Already, a south Snohomish County water district, concerned with possible contamination of their aquifer, is opposed to Olympic Pipe Line's 230-mile gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel pipeline.

   Proposed is a pipeline that would follow the Bonneville Power Administration powerlines from near Thrashers Corner east under the Snoqualmie River, then swing south through the hills above the valley and over the Cascades to Pasco. It could carry up to 4.6 million gallons of fuel per day to Eastern Washington.

   Councilwoman Barbara Solberg hopes the City Council will take a position, and while she's open to discussion, "at this point, I have strong reservations about the pipeline."

   Her main concerns are environmental--the potential for a leak and the impact on the water supply--and she says she sees a relationship between those and the area's threatened salmon stocks.

   "We have to look at the benefits to the whole region when we do something. We have to have a better vision anymore--not just for someone to make money," Solberg said.

   The cities of Snoqualmie and North Bend are both in opposition of the pipeline which would pass through their cities. North of Woodinville, the Cross Valley Water District is attempting to cover two possible outcomes at once. The district is both opposing the pipeline and working with Olympic to protect a federally-designated sole source aquifer if the project is permitted, according to general manager Gary Hajek.

   As of 1996, the Cross Valley aquifer provided drinking water for more than 20,000 residents around the communities of Maltby, Clearview, and Cathcart. It provides not only water for all the district's customers, but for others on wells in the area.

   Hajek says the district isn't so much worried about a large leak. "From our point of view, a big leak would be found very quickly. But a small leak, if it happens, would occur over a longer period and leak more over time," he said.

   According to a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) released last September, leaks occur whether petroleum products are piped, barged, or trucked.

   Olympic's project manager, Claude Harshbarger, acknowledges that leaks happen, but says with the proposed pipeline, places where leaks are most likely to occur--valves and pumping station--will be built above ground where a spill would be visible. He points out that the fuel line would be buried about four feet deep, not from where groundwater is usually withdrawn for drinking purposes.

   But the line would also cross Little Bear Creek, along with about 300 other watercourses. The creek flows into Woodinville to the Sammamish River, and is probably the only realistic way a spill would reach the city.

   "I'm not sitting here saying there's no likelihood of [fuel] getting into Little Bear Creek ... but the likelihood is very remote," Harshbarger said. "Regardless of whatever incident can be dreamed up and could occur, [Olympic] will be there to fully clean up," he said.

   Olympic has operated a north-south pipeline that runs between Woodinville and Bothell for over 30 years. The DEIS found that there have been three spills on that line locally since 1972 totaling 13,230 gallons of various fuels. Of that, 4,778 gallons were recovered, according to the DEIS.

   While supporters say the pipeline would serve growing markets in central and eastern Washington, opponents say the area is already well-fueled and another pipeline isn't needed. Fuel carriers currently use I-90 and the Columbia River corridors to cross the Cascades.

   With pipeline comments due Dec. 17, Solberg hopes that the Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which will make a recommendation to Governor Locke, will take note of Woodinville's position, if the council decides to take one.

   "If the process works, and a majority says no, it should have an impact," Solberg said.

   Woodinville Mayor Don Brocha was undecided on the issue, saying that while he doubted the economic necessity of the pipeline, it was also hard to take a moral high ground when so many people still drive cars.

   The Woodinville City Council heard from both Olympic and the Cascade Columbia Alliance in October.

   At least five Eastern Washington farm towns support the project, as well as numerous chambers of commerce on both sides of the Cascades, and certain labor groups. Tidewater Barge Lines, residents alongside the pipeline and environmental groups oppose it.