Council glum faced with upset in sewer plans

Published on Thu, Sep 26, 2002 by Meg Olson

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Council glum faced with upset in sewer plans

By Meg Olson

Blaine city council didn’t have much to say faced with the fizzling of plans for a regional wastewater sewer system. “We mostly listened,” said mayor Dieter Schugt after a council work session in which public works director Grant Stewart and city manager Gary Tomsic delivered a double whammy: there will be no federal funding for Blaine sewers this year and Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD) wants out.

“They’d like to hold off a little on the regional project and we need to work on our own needs,” Stewart said after the September 23 work session. A letter to Tomsic received a week prior from BBWSD manager Roger Brown outlined the district’s reasons for pulling out. “It no longer appears there is any specific plan, financially reasonable for both parties, under which the district would be providing wastewater services to the city,” Brown wrote. He explained that the plan of action the city and the district had agreed on in May 2001 was predicated on 75 percent outside funding, which has failed to materialize despite two years of lobbying federal legislators. That changed circumstance, he reasoned, raised “significant doubts about the prospects for meaningful progress.”

Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. the house and Senate budget committees have completed drafts of bills that might have been sources of funding for the regional sewer and the project isn’t included. “We appealed to all our congressional representatives and didn’t get a dollar,” Stewart said. “We’re competing against homeland security and we aren’t winning.”
There is language is the Senate version of the housing and urban development appropriations bill to earmark $100,000 for the Lummi memorial at the treatment plant site.

In Senator Patty Murray’s office, Alex Glass said that the city had other avenues for funding to consider, such as loans and grants administered by the state. “An appropriation isn’t the only way,” she said.

“It’s not a change as much as a clarification of where we are now,” Schugt said. Council gave staff the go-ahead to prepare a contract for drafting a general sewer plan for the city, which would look at options for funding, treatment and collections. The plan is required under the Growth Management Act and the state department of ecology. ‘We’ve known we had to do it all along but had hoped for some help,” Schugt said of the $100,000 plan. He said it was likely funding for the plan would come from the wastewater reserve fund.

Stewart said a general sewer plan would look at options to replace the old wastewater plant, from a new plant behind the Semiahmoo fire station to sending the wastewater to Canadian treatment facilities. It would also address the city’s current financial situation and how to fund a multi-million dollar capital project, from rate hikes to a 20 million dollar loan.

Council will take formal action on going ahead with the plan at their October 14 meeting.

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