November 5, 2001
Committee wrestles with expanding Brightwater site list
by Jeanette Knutson
By now most everyone knows about the new wastewater treatment facility, Brightwater, planned for south Snohomish County.
In mid-September two final candidate sites were chosen from a field of six: the Route 9 site, north of the city of Woodinville in unincorporated Snohomish County, east of Highway 9 at 228th Street SE, close to Highway 522; and the Edmonds Unocal site, located in the city of Edmonds, southeast of the Port of Edmonds marina. These recommended sites, after being approved by the Metropolitan King County Council, are to undergo rigorous environmental review and concurrent detailed engineering, geotechnical and cost analysis. Continued public input will also be solicited.
The Brightwater Siting Advisory Committee has played an important role in the review process of the six proposed sites. It is made up of government, civic and tribal leaders from King and Snohomish counties whose mission at this point is to, among other things, comment on the work of the staff/consultant team responsible for the siting effort and review the narrowing process of potential sites, providing an oversight role throughout the siting process.
Right now this siting committee is in the throes of debate.
They have been reviewing work done on the project to date and are struggling with whether or not to recommend additional sites, the Point Wells and Fruhling gravel pit sites or one of them to the list of the two final candidate sites already chosen by County Executive Ron Sims.
When Sims announced the Route 9 and Edmonds Unocal sites, he said they "best meet the overall needs of the region." For that reason he recommended them for further consideration and study. Sims did acknowledge that the Point Wells site located in unincorporated Snohomish County between Shoreline and Woodway on Puget Sound and the gravel quarry site and additional undeveloped land adjacent to the quarry located in the 400 block of 228th Street on the border of Bothell were "suitable options that could serve as reasonable alternatives for consideration in future environmental review," in his Executive Summary, Phase 2, Siting the Brightwater Treatment Facilities, dated September 2001.
His line of reasoning was that "sufficient information was available to reduce the number of sites under consideration and keep the project on schedule." Hence, "the determination was made to proceed with only the two sites [Route 9 and Edmonds Unocal] for further consideration," Sims stated in a Sept. 15 press release.
But some siting committee members are concerned two sites may not be enough, said Christy True, project spokeswoman. Their thinking, she said, is that by adding another site now, the committee may prevent a delay in schedule should one of the two chosen sites prove flawed under scrutiny.
Furthermore, the entire project could be out of compliance with state environmental policy if one of the two final candidate sites has to be discarded because it is not suitable.
Policy states that any site undergoing an environmental impact statement (EIS) must have an alternative. In short, the committee wants to guarantee there are enough viable options to keep the project moving forward, True said.
"The Executive felt we had enough information," said True. We don't see anything out there [that would eliminate either Route 9 or Edmonds Unocal]. He felt it was worth it to move forward with the two. The Executive is firm on recommending the two sites. He hasn't deviated. These are two very good sites to move into EIS. They will withstand the SEPA/NEPA [State Environmental Policy Act and National Environmental Policy Act] process.
Elaine Kraft, spokeswoman for Ron Sims, said, "At this point we're not expecting other sites to be put back on the list. It is not a cheap process to fully explore the potential sites. Two clearly had more options, so to expedite the process and keep it on track, he advanced the two [best-suited] sites for further study. These two sites will undergo intense scrutiny. There is a public process, a technical process, an economic process, an environmental process. These and all other aspects of each of these two sites [Route 9 and Edmonds Unocal] will be investigated. At this point they have the most potential for meeting the vast criteria [of this project].
"The key thing right now," said True, "is that the [final candidate site] decision is made by the King County Council. They have had one briefing so far, but they are very absorbed in the budget right now and probably won't get to it until after Thanksgiving." Now, she said, is a good time for residents to give their testimony to the council by calling the [King County] Council's general information line at (206) 296-1000 or by commenting to a particular council member on-line at that person's first name "dot" last name @metrokc.gov.
And just as the siting advisory committee deliberates adding a name or two to the site candidate "shortlist" (some think the committee will make its recommendations known at its Nov. 8 meeting), opposition to the Route 9 site is beginning to garner strength.
Charley Blaine, a member of the anti-Route 9 group, Save Little Bear Creek Coalition, said 80 people attended the group's most recent meeting.
"We got 1,200 people to sign a petition in opposition to the Route 9 site just like that," Blaine said. "We sent the petition to every member of the King and Snohomish county councils. We realize we have virtually no representatives, political or otherwise, and we do feel disenfranchised. ... But we do have a dialogue now [with those working on the Brightwater project], and they are paying attention to our questions," he said.
"The Route 9 site is in the slot of an hourglass, a valley," Blaine said, "and air pollution is a huge issue." Fugitive smells will hang in that valley, he said, and if that happens, property values are going to drop, "but good."
"We're concerned about potential harm any spill might have on the great salmon-bearing creek [Little Bear Creek]," said Blaine. "And construction over a seven-year period would exacerbate an already bad traffic problem.
"We're concerned that within the context of generalized urban planning, this facility is looking like a steel plant. We realize all they have shown us is a projected layout, but even with landscaping changes, this thing is big and it's ugly.
"There is no transition from an industrial site to the nearby residential sites. We contend this is not an appropriate land use for this property. Within a half-mile radius there are 3,400 homes, ranging in value from $200,000 to three-quarters of a million dollars.
"Part of the site is in the 100-year flood plain. Nobody really understands the geology of area yet. There is talk that the soil may be [unstable or unsuitable].
"Costs for this site are a third more than the coastal sites, and then it's 22 miles to the Sound," said Blaine.
"We would obviously be as happy as could be if another site or two were taken into consideration," he said. "We feel that the logic of this site will be diminished when held up to other more appropriate sites.
"Some say Brightwater would be better than the [planned] bus barn. Yeah. Maybe. But do you really want to substitute something that has all the charm of a steel mill that big on this land? With 3,400 homes no more than a half mile away?
"One thing is for certain, we are not going to be a cheap date if they build it here," said Blaine.