Blaine eyes new plant location, goals

Published on Thu, Feb 12, 2004
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Blaine eyes new plant location, goals

by Rebecca Schwarz Kopf

The city of Blaine has decided on a new location for a wastewater treatment plant, and a new overall project concept.

The city will move forward with a plan that will connect the wastewater treatment plant � to be built at the end of Marine Drive � with community project ideas and educational opportunities, such as the boardwalk, floating maritime museum and extended trail system through Marine Park. The idea was discussed during a two-day informational work session between representatives of the city of Blaine staff, Port of Bellingham, Citizens Wastewater Advisory Committee (CWAC), and city council. During this time, officials agreed that pursuing a treatment plant option on the western end of Marine Drive, and connecting it with community projects, would be the most beneficial, as this is a significant area for future improvements.

�What we�re doing here is basically creating an opportunity for this whole area to upgrade and redevelop. If you do nothing in the area what�s going to happen? Probably nothing,� city manager Gary Tomsic said, adding the area would potentially be a mini-Granville Island.

City staff, including community development director Terry Galvin, emphasized that the treatment plant would allow improvement to the entire area. The plant, they said, would incorporate a learning/educational area, as well as a birding observation tower. Once the boardwalk is completed in downtown Blaine, the trail system through Marine Park would connect to the plant and complete an overall recreational circle in the area - an area of significant nautical history within the Blaine community. There is also discussion between Galvin and interested community members to turn the historic Dakota vessel, as well as the Dakota Fisheries building and dock, into a local museum.

There were a total of six sites along Marine Drive that were discussed last week, including the previously preferred alternative off Milhollin Drive and the possibility of establishing a plant within the area of Marine Park. The new site (number 6) being proposed is just behind the area of the Dakota Fisheries building and Harbor Cafe and would take up roughly an acre. The treatment plant itself would be one building.

The consensus at the end of the two-day meeting, Banham said, was that site 6 was the way to go. Everyone in attendance gave feedback and voted on their preferred locations, and site 6 was at the top of the list.

�We have been involved in a critical process during the past months with some very dedicated people in the community helping to locate the best place for a new treatment plant. This has involved focusing in on solutions that are cost effective and consistent with the community�s vision for the future,� public works director Steve Banham said. �I am very encouraged to see the excitement that this particular site is generating among members of the community and city leadership.�

The site, he said, will act as a catalyst for other improvements and compliment the overall vision for the Marine Drive area. �We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but I think we�re on the verge of resolving this key issue of location,� he said.

�We can�t think of this as plopping a wastewater treatment plant in the middle of Marine Drive,� Tomsic said. �The project is all of this, but it may not all happen at once.�

CWAC worked for more than six months to establish and discuss more than 10 treatment alternatives, and ultimately decided on the area of Marine Drive, after the alternative to send waste to Canada did not work out.

�This to me makes so much more sense,� CWAC member Pam Christianson said. �It�s a win-win situation. It can only be such an improvement to that entire end.�

Jan Hrutfiord agreed, stating the Milhollin location was okay, but �this comes out much better.�

CH2M Hill, a Colorado-based engineering firm, worked with the committee through the process of establishing alternatives, providing direction and information. To date, the city of Blaine has paid over $200,000 to CH2M Hill � those funds coming from a $250,000 federal grant for sewer planning. The city, Banham said, will next enter into discussion with the Port of Bellingham and continue working on the general sewer plan, among other things.

�We�ve looked at several options. Are we at the point now where we have to make a quick decision?� asked Blaine city council member John Liebert at Monday evening�s council meeting. �Are we under the gun?�

Officials said not necessarily, acknowledging certain funding sources have deadlines in place and applications need to be made. The city is currently working to complete its general sewer plan, and will seek funding sources when finished.

As for west Blaine treatment, Banham said it is possible to link up with the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD) as they plan to expand in the Birch Point area.

For more information, visit online at www.cityofblaine.com or visit the public works office located at 1200 Yew Avenue between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or call 332-8311.

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