Sims confirms Highway 9 site for Brightwater

Standing in a building that won’t be there in a few years, King County Executive Ron Sims announced Monday that the $1.4 billion Brightwater sewage treatment plant will be built on 114 acres along Highway 9, just north of Highway 522.

Sims named the site his preferred alternative more than a year ago. Monday, it became official.

The decision has many nearby residents concerned because it sits on top of the Cross Valley aquifer, which provides drinking water to more than 14,000 people.

Sims told a packed house inside the Bear Creek Grange Hall that Brightwater "will be a very good neighbor." The hall sits on the plant’s proposed site. He promised that residents will be involved in the design process, and in developing a learning center that will provide education about water and the environment.

King County says it needs to build a third sewage treatment plant by 2010, when the two existing plants are expected to reach capacity.

On Monday, Sims showed conceptual drawings and models that feature a tree-lined Highway 9 with most of the plant’s major buildings on the south end of the landscape, nearest Highway 522.

"This site still has some industrial look to it," Sims said after the event.

Sims also announced the pipeline will run underneath 195th Street in King County, through Kenmore and Lake Forest Park. The pipeline then moves north, along the county line, to Point Wells, where treated wastewater will be released into Puget Sound.

Sims said he chose that route because, "I made the decision that north King County have some responsibility, as well."

The sewage plant is considered an essential public facility, meaning it provides services for people throughout the region, so it can’t be denied placement.

Some residents expressed frustration that King County is able to put such a plant in Snohomish County without answering to voters.

"We do not have due process," said Mark Sakura, a frustrated resident who vented at Sims during a minuteslong monologue.

"This was all done without Snohomish County residents having a voice," Sakura said. "We don’t have a voice, and we’ve never had a voice. … My land and property is being terrorized by this kind of facility coming in."

Sims said that 60 percent of the wastewater that Brightwater will process will come from Snohomish County. "As a result of that, it’s being placed here."

He said he has never seen anyone welcome an essential public facility, such as a jail or airport. That is why the state law exists. "There’s always opposition," he said.

The process is one people are still looking to fight. The Washington Tea Party, an Edmonds-based group that was against siting Brightwater in their hometown, has vowed to continue the fight. And state Rep. Paull Shin, D-Edmonds, said while he is pleased the plant didn’t end up in his town, the process is undemocratic.

"I agree that regional cooperation is important, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the people’s constitutional rights," Shin said in a release.

Shin added that when the legislative session begins in January, he plans to again introduce a bill that would allow communities to complete their own siting process before another county’s facility is placed there.

Snohomish County Councilman Jeff Sax called the process "a complete farce."

"We gave King County every opportunity to back away, start over and include the voters. The only reason it landed in Snohomish County was because it was the politically correct thing for the King County executive to do," Sax said.

One nearby resident who worked in favor of siting the plant on Highway 9 is Greg Stephens, president of the Little Bear Creek Protective Association. While many believe Brightwater will be a danger to the creek, which runs less than 200 yards from where the plant will be, Stephens said some of the $88 million in mitigation money from the project could serve the stream and salmon well.

"If we do it right, the salmon will still be here in 100 years," Stephens said. "If we do nothing, it could be covered by asphalt."

With Sims’ announcement, King County will begin applying for permits. But the Snohomish County Council in October approved a six-month moratorium on permits for a large sewage treatment plant. The council wanted to review its options for approving permits.

Barring major delays, ground could break on Brightwater by 2005. It will be built in phases, and King County expects the plant to be running by 2010.

Reporter Victor Balta: 425-339-3455 or vbalta@heraldnet.com.

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