Northwest NEWS

November 26, 2001

Editorial

Questions about Brightwater

(Copy of letter sent to King County Executive Ron Sims)
   I am head of the Save Little Bear Creek Coalition which has been organizing on the Brightwater siting problem in Woodinville. I have written before, and believe me, I will write again. But I think it's important that you understand what you've gotten yourself into in the Snohomish County area north of Woodinville.
   I respect the concern you have about sewage treatment capacity, but I must respectfully ask these questions of you. I have also asked these questions of Mike Popiwny's staff, and hope you won't stonewall on the answers.
   These are important questions. (And, yes, I have shared these questions with the Brightwater staff.)
   When was the last time King County studied the demographic trends that led to your interest in the Brightwater facility? Demographic trends can shift quickly and wrenchingly as Sept. 11 has shown us. It seems to me that the recession now unfolding requires your staff to restudy the assumptions used in determining the need for a facility of this size.
   How does I-747 affect the capacity of King County to finance a project of this size?
   How does I-747 affect the abilities of King and Snohomish counties to ensure that adequate emergency services are always immediately available in case of spillage into Little Bear Creek or other problems?
   At what point do economics play a role in determining the location of this plant? As I am sure you are aware, the Woodinville site will cost at least 25 percent more to build than a site on Puget Sound.
   That's because of the extensive tunneling and piping required to move treated effluent from Woodinville to the sound. And I'll bet you a six-pack of beer that the final cost will be $2 billion.
   Already the metropolitan Seattle area and I am including Snohomish County suffers from a housing affordability problem. The cost of a Woodinville sewage treatment plant will exacerbate that problem.
   Are you committed to creating a site design for all sites that will enhance the neighborhood and not detract from it? That is, the plant can create no odors, which is no mean trick given the bowl shape of the site. It can not threaten the adjoining Little Bear Creek.
   It must have an architectural and landscaping design that everyone will be proud of. A badly designed treatment plant and as I told Popiwny recently, the initial layout of the Woodinville site is frighteningly ugly will cause more harm to the surrounding neighborhood. So, I can assure you that attempts to save money on the site design itself will be met with extreme opposition from the 3,400 residents who live within a mile of this site.
   And, yes, it sounds contradictory that I would complain about the costs on one hand and then demand an expensive design on the other. The fact is, that's the price you will have to pay to get us and the other sites on board. The uncertainty raised by the project has already hurt property values in this area and is creating neighborhood tensions.
   And I gotta ask, what did you mean in your press release: We don't have urban services? Indeed, we don't have sewer, but your treatment plant isn't intended to get those of us near the Woodinville site on sewer. Other than that, we're pretty well served.
   Brightwater's early attempts at local involvement and disclosure were awful; King County has come off at times looking like a bully, especially since the siting folks seemed curiously unable to find a site in King County to consider.
   Snohomish County has done you no favors by its near silence on this question. And neighbors who have finally awakened to the possibility of having the U.S. Steel works in Gary transplanted onto 104 acres along Route 9 are really angered by this shabby treatment.
   Charley Blaine, chairman , Save Little Bear Creek Coalition