CWAC debates next wastewater step

Published on Thu, Nov 20, 2003 by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

Read More News

CWAC debates next wastewater step

By Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

The Citizens Wastewater Advisory Committee (CWAC) met for more than four hours Tuesday night to discuss the future of Blaine�s wastewater issues following last week�s news from the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) that it would not be able to provide sewage service.

After months of meetings, CWAC had established that sending wastewater to Canada would be the preferred alternative, seconded by the construction of a new plant on Marine Drive. Because the Canada concept has been cut from the list, the committee largely debated whether the Marine Drive option should be sent to city council as the preferred alternative, thus starting the planning process for that site. However, many committee members voiced concern over the Marine Drive alternative, stating it should not be the only option studied in-depth just because it was second to the Canada alternative.

�Just because we lost the top two alternatives doesn�t mean that we just drop down to number three (Marine Drive) and forget everything else,� committee member Geoff Menzies said. �You�re going to lose a lot of people on this committee if you do Marine Drive only. Once you go down that road, it�s going to be hard to hold it back.�

Ken Raithel agreed that the Marine Drive option should not be the only one considered just because it was next on the list. �In a nutshell I was probably so happy we were sending it to Canada, that it didn�t matter,� he said. �Now all of a sudden I am faced with what I think is the absolute worst alternative. I really think the Marine Drive area is worth a lot more.�

Public works director Steve Banham explained to the committee that they should be comfortable with whatever decision they come to, adding the Marine Drive alternative could be different than what they had thought.

�There aren�t any easy or simple solutions we can go after. Everyone needs to feel comfortable with the process,� he said. �We can re-look at a couple of options. It (Marine Drive) doesn�t have to be the way we envisioned it.�

CWAC member Trevor Hoskins said the Marine Drive area alternative does need to be broadened and all sites should be looked at. �There is a bit of reluctance here because there is no specificity of a site. The city doesn�t own any other land,� he said. �I�d like to see it somewhere else, but it seems we�ll be told we can�t afford it.�

Currently, the city owns land encompassing Marine Park and the lift station. So far, what had been discussed, was building a new treatment plant on roughly two acres within the western park area � or a sub-option stating one plant would be built on Marine Drive and the other in west Blaine somewhere. The Port of Bellingham owns the remaining land on Marine Drive, and it was then discussed whether swapping land or an area purchase could be considered with the port, including the current location of the boat launch site.

�We had talked to the Port of Bellingham at one point. But I�ve made some contacts saying we need to speak again,� he said. �We (Blaine) can look at all the range of locations down there.�

Jim Jorgensen, a committee member and Port of Bellingham district 3 commissioner-elect, said the committee and officials should look at that range.

�I thought we kind of determined we want to look at more. It seems like it�s the only choice,� he said. �You have to look at what�s 40 years down the road. Plus, the port has plans.�

Other alternatives discussed
�What about the airport?� Pam Christianson asked the committee, in regards to the recent acquisition of 5.43 acres of land near the southern end of the airport, and a recent letter by resident Patrick Madsen proposing that area be used for a treatment plant. �We just bought five acres there. What about that? Could we do that?�

Banham responded that the area may be easier to address, but it could potentially be a challenge because of treatment costs. Another idea discussed was going down Lincoln Road with piping, and maybe connecting into the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District.

�I�d like to see some partnering with Birch Bay,� Menzies said. �We allow Blaine�s growth and Birch Bay�s growth to take place and be treated more locally.�

However, the issue with that idea was the cost of piping, as well as the potential cultural resource problems and the future plans of Birch Bay. Several years ago, the BBWSD and city of Blaine signed a memorandum of understanding, stating they would move towards a regional system together; however, last year the two decided not to advance together because of financial uncertainty and other issues.

Process timeframe
With the end of the year coming up, Banham noted the timetable, stating the annual funding cycle will be approaching � a time when Blaine should have its general sewer plan complete. In the next year, he said, there will be different grant and loan options available and should the state and federal legislative sessions yield any money to the city of Blaine, officials would be notified in 2005.

�By then, we�d know whether we had loan or grant money to start (the facility). I don�t say that to push your decision, I�m just saying,� he said. �And if we miss it this year, it means we catch it the next time. But we�d like to avoid missing on that year.�

Because of capacity issues within the current plant, and the fact the Lummi tribe intends to construct a heritage center there, the city has agreed to leave the current site by 2010.

Should a new treatment plant be constructed on Marine Drive, the estimated costs are $21,750,000 for one plant, at an annual payment of $2,296,436, and a total of $21,734,000 for two plants, costing $2,760,023 annually. The projected lifespan for the project is 25 years.

Once an alternative is established, the city of Blaine will begin facility planning, a process that could take six months to a year, maybe more.

Committee member Bonnie Onyon, who also sits on the city council, said Blaine does need to move forward to pursue project money, but noted the council was not set on Marine Drive as the wastewater alternative.

�We�ve got to get in this finding cycling. We have to start moving forward,� she said. �We didn�t as a council decide on anything. But definitely we�re going to look at Marine Drive.�

CWAC will meet again, sometime after Thanksgiving officials said, and will examine the Marine Drive alternative more in-depth, as well as a west Blaine alternative.

�There is an obvious discomfort with moving forward with Marine Drive without looking at another option,� city manager Gary Tomsic said. �Let�s focus on two options and understand them totally, so you, the committee, are really comfortable.�

CWAC�s 10 members are: Frank Bresnan, Pam Christianson, Jeff Green, Trevor Hoskins, Jan Hrutfiord, Jim Jorgensen, Geoff Menzies, Brad O�Neil, Ken Raithel and a representative of the Lummi tribe. For more information, visit online at or visit public works at 1200 Yew Avenue to view CWAC materials.

Back to Top