Birch Bay to revise water, sewer rates
The Birch Bay Water and Sewer District commissioners have approved a revised rate structure effective January 1, 2005.
Under the new plan, most residential and business users will see a decrease in water bills while heavy users will see an increase. Those customers using less than 1,700 cubic feet per billing cycle - a group the district calls a “sizable majority - will see their bills drop from two to eight percent. On the other hand, those using 3,000 cubic feet per billing – the top 10 percent – will see their bills grow from one to nine percent.
The district’s justification for the new rates is that they more accurately reflect the district’s cost of service and encourages conservation. Much of the cost of the water utility’s service comes from providing capability to meet peak demand. The rates will shift these costs to those users who consume the most water, especially in the high summer usage period.
But if the district can give, it can also take away. Sewer rates are poised to jump approximately nine percent to keep up with the district’s increased costs. The combined water and sewer bill for a moderate user (say, 1,700 cubic feet per cycle) will increase three to five percent. The majority of district customers will face an increase of this magnitude.
The new rate will also earmark one percent of district rate revenue to establish a fund to support reclamation and reuse of district waste water effluent.
Even after the overall increase, Birch Bay residents still fare well vis-a-vis their county brethren. Users being billed for 800 cubic feet monthly would pay $20.45 for water and $25.80 for sewer in Birch Bay. This would compare to $22.74 and $32.37 respectively for the average county user. Blaine users, for instance, would pay $19.33 and $39.78, respectively.
In other district news, staff have begun pre-construction work on installing sewers in the last remaining unsewered development of any size remaining in the Birch Bay area, according to district general manager Roger Brown. Initial environmental work on the Birch Bay View development, located uphill from Birch Bay Village has started with actual construction expected to commence in May of next year. Approximately 150 lots, 127 of them currently built on, will be serviced by the project. The $1.9 million job is funded through a combination of grants, low interest loans and district money. Users will be charged connection fees to join the system.
“We worked with the county to apply for a $850,000 community development block grant,” said Brown, adding the project was driven by environmental and health concerns.
The district has also finished a major upgrade to the Drayton Harbor/Harborview water line, enabling the district to draw 15 percent more water from Blaine.