Northwest NEWS

December 7, 1998

Front Page

Wastewater plans questioned

by Andrew Walgamott, staff reporter

   BOTHELL--King County Council Chair Louise Miller is promising an in-depth look at the technical and financial details of County Executive Ron Sims' $1.1 billion plan to increase capacity of the county's wastewater treatment system which is likely to come before her committee-of-the-whole next year.

   "I don't think we have all the information and all the pieces," said Miller.

   With a vote by a regional committee to forward Sims' plan to the council looming, County Councilwoman Maggi Fimia has begun questioning why comparisons between that and three other strategies haven't been made.

   Fimia said an alternative costing $300 million less than the Executive's plan is worth looking at because it would provide the same capacity and level of protection for the environment. According to documents from her office, maximizing the capacity of the county's two existing plants would more than cover the expected need for treatment capacity by the year 2040. Known as Strategy 1, it would cost $786 million.

   "We're spending 40 percent more and getting no real benefit," she said.

   Still, at the first of three public hearings before the Regional Water Quality Committee (RWQC) last week, it was clear that there was the Executive's plan, and then there were the other plans.

   Sims' recommendation to build a new, northern treatment plant got heavy play from county officials and support from about three dozen members of the public. Of 13 speakers at Bothell's Northshore Senior Center, eight supported it. Of those eight, four were from Seattle, and one was from Lake Forest Park, Woodinville, and Woodway each. The other three strategies were briefly described.

   Fimia, a Shoreline Democrat who also represents Bothell and Kenmore, added sarcastically, "If we're going to rubber stamp this, let's rubber stamp it."

   Prodding the need to expand the county's treatment system are projections it will reach capacity by the year 2010. An additional 1.1 million new residents are expected in the system by the year 2030 on top of 1.3 million living here now.

   The county currently has two plants--West Point and Renton. A third plant would more equitably distribute its facilities, county officials argue. It would be built somewhere in north King or south Snohomish counties. Sims recommended the third plant option last May. New customers would mainly pay for the expansion.

   Miller, who represents Woodinville, Redmond, and the lower Snoqualmie Valley, doesn't think her district had to worry about a treatment plant being located within its borders.

   Though the official county line is that no site has been picked out yet, Bothell keeps coming up. Twice this year, county officials have made presentations before that city's council.

   Bothell officials also attended the RWQC's hearing Nov. 30. Mayor Debbie Treen said the city was "keeping an eye" on things. Woodinville officials have asked that the county make a presentation before them next year.

   But Miller said a "willing partner" would found because a wastewater plant could bring a community mitigations that couldn't be afforded otherwise.

   The southwest Snohomish County town of Woodway pitched themselves. During last week's hearing, Peter Block, a member of the town council, read a letter professing, "The phrase [Not In My Back Yard] does not apply to Woodway."

   Members of the RWQC will vote on a plan to forward to the County Council Dec. 10. Miller said the council would probably look at the issue for the first three months of 1999.