Northwest NEWS

December 17, 2001

Features

And then there were two

by Jeanette Knutson
   Staff Writer
   There was talk in early November of the Metropolitan King County Council adding another site or two to the north-end sewage plant finalist list. Some on the Brightwater Siting Advisory Committee thought it might be prudent to have a backup site, in case one of the earmarked sites didn't pass muster.
   The King County Council decided otherwise. At a meeting last Monday they recommended the two sites already under consideration - Route 9 and Edmonds Unocal - be the only two to move forward in yearlong environmental, technical and economic studies.
   By proceeding with the sites already chosen by King County Executive Ron Sims, said Elaine Kraft, spokeswoman for Sims, and by limiting the scope of the upcoming investigation to two, as opposed to three or four sites, the council felt it would be more cost effective; it would keep the project on schedule.
   "We could always go back and study another site if we needed to," Kraft said.
   Brightwater spokeswoman Christy True estimated that focusing on only two sites could save $3-4 million. She, too, said that by having only two sites in play, the project was more likely to meet its 2010 timeline.
   "We have already gathered so much information at this point," said True. "A lot of other organizations would be completing Environmental Impact Statements based on the information we've already collected.
   "Also the council and the executives realize the siting process creates a lot of concern in the lives of those affected by it. It takes a great deal of time and effort from the daily lives of citizens involved."
   Before drawing more people in, True said, they wanted to make sure it was absolutely necessary.
   Evidently the county council didn't believe it was.
   And now, the long, narrow 111-acre, 14-owner Route 9 site, located north of the city of Woodinville in unincorporated Snohomish County, remains on the short list. So, too, does the pie-shaped 53-acre, Union-Oil-owned Edmonds Unocal site. Whisked away from consideration are the Point Wells site near Woodway and the Fruhling gravel pit site near Bothell.
   Said True, the Route 9 site would allow for a longer wastewater treatment plant layout, which would afford a nice, landscaped, park-like buffer on each side. The compact Edmonds site, she said, would have different buffers: fences, screening, walls and architectural features. Builders would dig down deep to construct the plant and eventually cover the top to allow for parking and ferry holding lanes atop. Planners envision co-locating the Brightwater treatment plant with Edmonds multi-modal transportation facility, the Edmonds Crossing project.
   Over the next two months, King County will continue to install 30 monitoring wells to gather soil and geologic data at locations throughout north King and south Snohomish counties. This data is being gathered along potential pipeline routes. The county is looking at different ways of building the conveyance pipes, including a deep-tunnel option that could be less costly and cause fewer disturbances during construction. The soil and geologic data gathered will help determine pipe routes, construction options and costs.
   Speaking of costs, the estimated tab for design and construction of a Route 9 Brightwater facility will be from $1.33 billion to $1.37 billion. The estimated price tag for an Edmonds Brightwater plant will be from $997 million to $1.12 billion.
   And who will reckon the hefty bill? Newbies. New customers will pay at least 95 percent of the cost of new sewer capacity needed to accommodate growth, which includes the yet-to-be-built north treatment plant, Brightwater. In fact, when new customers hook up today, they are already assessed a surcharge, or "capacity charge," for 15 years in addition to their monthly sewer bills. Owners of new apartments, condos and businesses pay a pro-rated charge based on flow.
   To clarify why it is King County is undertaking such a colossal project in a county other than its own, Michael Popiwny, siting and mitigation manager for the Brightwater project, said "The county's sewage treatment service area includes most of urban and suburban King County, a small portion of Pierce County and 26 square miles of south Snohomish County. For 35 years King County has been providing wastewater treatment services to all of these areas. But along with providing the services comes the responsibility of building and maintaining a system that provides for the future. Hence, the King County Executive has been responsible for building the third needed water treatment facility. By the way, 63 percent of the water treated in this new facility will come from Snohomish County. Right now Snohomish's wastewater is sent to the West Point facility or all the way down to Renton to be treated.
   "So the King County Executive is working very closely with Bob Drewel, the Snohomish County Executive.
   "Likewise, the King County Council has been working closely with the Snohomish County Council. Several Snohomish water districts and utility districts that have elected officials have also been commenting on the project as it proceeds," said Popiwny.
   It is correct, said Popiwny, that in the future Snohomish County Council members will be asked to act on land use applications with regards to Brightwater.
   "They have been asked to withhold from prejudging the project before all the information is in," said Christy True. But the council members are responsible to their citizens, she said, and nothing should prevent citizens from sharing or expressing their concerns with them.
   To express concerns about the Brightwater treatment facility online, access http://dnr.metrokc.gov/wtd/brightwater. Send written comments to King County Executive Ron Sims at King County Courthouse, 516 Third Avenue, Room 400, Seattle, WA 98104; and/or to Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel, Snohomish County Administration Building, 3000 Rockefeller, Third Floor, Everett, WA 98201.