City examines early link to Birch Bay sewers

Published on Thu, Mar 1, 2001 by Meg Olson

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City examines early link to Birch Bay sewers

By Meg Olson

Anticipating early approval of the express feeder electrical project by the Army Corps of Engineers, city staff is looking at the feasibility of tying in the first steps of regionalizing sewers.

“Suddenly we have a green light,” said Blaine public works director Grant Stewart at the February 26 Blaine city council meeting. “We’re likely to be able to proceed this construction season with the express feeder project.” The project would run underground electrical transmission lines around the south end of Drayton Harbor, providing a second pathway for power to get to Semiahmoo and eventually connecting the city’s old and new substations.

“There’s a great opportunity to go in there and do a sewer project at the same time,” Stewart said. By laying pipe to connect Blaine’s life station 5 and the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWS) Loomis Trail lift station, the city would be putting in place a building block of a regional sewer system prior to working out the feasibility of such a system. The district and the city are currently reviewing a working draft of a feasibility study by project consultants Kennedy/Jenks.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity but one fraught with dangers,” Stewart said. The city would save time and money and lessen impacts by doing the two projects together, but the investment would be wasted if the regional sewer project didn’t go ahead. At their last meeting city council membersapproved $10,000 to study alternatives to regionalization, including sending the sewage for treatment in Canada and building a new plant for Blaine.

Stewart said he felt the benefits outweighed the risks. “We minimize the aggravation to the public, the impact on the environment and we have a better shot at avoiding cultural conflicts if we put it all in one trench,” he said. The proposal is to lay the sewer line on top of the electrical duct, which Stewart said has received very positive response from sewer and electrical project consultants. He said the city would not only save money and time, but would minimize permitting requirements and red-tape. “Once we have the right-of-way approved it does make sense to combine sewer and power and realize the possibility of offloading some of our capacity to Birch Bay prior to making a decision about a long-term solution,” he said.

The first phase of the project would only lay sewer line in the trench with the express feeder duct, but would not connect to either sewer system or cross the creeks. The link would only be connected following a feasibility examination in collaboration with BBWS. “We’d have to do some analysis of our system to see if there would be any bottlenecks in getting it to the treatment plant, said BBWS manager Roger Brown. Brown said the BBWS treatment plant had the capacity to treat up to 200,000 gallons a day from Blaine. According to Stewart, the option of sending some of the city’s sewage to Birch Bay would relieve pressure on the city’s overburdened sewer. “We urgently need to supplement our capacity,” he said, anticipating it could take five years or more for a long-term solution to be in place.

City council directed city manager Gary Tomsic to schedule a council of the whole meeting in coming weeks to fully review the proposal. In the interim Stewart said he would study system flows, determine estimated costs and collect other information to help council members in their decision. Brown said the district was willing to work with the city, should they elect to go ahead with the proposal. “It’s probably mostly a question of funding,” he said.

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