Brightwater sewage plant committee adds two sites to list

By Shannon Middleton

For The Herald

It seemed like a done deal when King County Executive Ron Sims picked two possible Brightwater sites for an environmental review.

But now that done deal appears to be unraveling after a majority of siting advisory committee members moved to add two more sites to the list.

The advisory committee Thursday approved a draft of a letter to the King County Council stating that two sites are not enough. The 15 committee members are recommending that a gravel quarry in Bothell and Point Wells between Shoreline and Woodway also undergo a review.

Sims has already selected Edmonds Unocal and Highway 9 near Bothell to undergo environmental impact statement reviews.

The reviews would help determine if either site could host the new regional wastewater treatment facility, which will serve King and Snohomish counties.

The project, which is estimated to cost $850 million, is scheduled to be brought online in 2010 to ease the burden on the Renton and West Point facilities.

"You must have at least three sites," said Bill Anderson, commissioner of the Silver Lake Water District. "The Department of Fish and Wildlife won’t let you stop at two sites."

In October, the committee split a vote on whether to attempt to have the sites placed back on the list. They also compromised on a letter crafted to show the majority’s support for additional sites, as well as the views of the five dissenters.

One of the dissenters, Bothell Mayor Mike Noblet, questioned the committee’s right to recommend two sites.

"Are we out of bounds to suggest something that is not based on the process?" Noblet said.

Margaret Norton-Arnold, facilitator of the meetings, assured him that the committee was within its rights.

"Your job is to make sure the right decisions are being made," she said. "This is well within your mandate and scope of work."

Other members wondered if the letter would actually be effective in changing King County minds.

"Sims hasn’t said, ‘I’m not changing my opinion no matter what,’ " said Christie True, manager of planning and program development for the project. "He hasn’t gotten your opinion yet."

In the letter, the committee questions the reasons that Point Wells and the gravel quarry were removed from the list, despite that the sites had been "red-flagged" for having flaws.

"That information was heavily used by Ron Sims to make his decision," said Richard Gregory, who lives in the East Glen neighborhood adjacent to the gravel quarry. "You’re ignoring the recommendations you previously made. What gives this body the authority to do this?"

Deborah Knutson of the Economic Development Council of Snohomish County said the red flags weren’t meant to remove sites from the list. "Just because a red flag got attached did not mean it would be taken off the list," she said.

The letter also outlines the risks some in the committee feel are involved in studying only two sites.

"Additional analysis could determine that neither site is ultimately suitable for the Brightwater facility, requiring the election process to essentially start over when the EIS is completed at the end of 2002," the letter states.

Several Edmonds residents agreed with the committee’s recommendation of more sites, but wanted Edmonds off the list. "I want Edmonds to come off," said Janice Freeman, an Edmonds resident. "We are going to fight it, and we are going to win."

Shannon Middleton is editor for the Shoreline Enterprise weekly newspaper. You can call her at 425-673-6526 or send e-mail to middleton@heraldnet.com.

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