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Clallam, PUD take aim at sewer project

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

Posted 6/15/2012


CARLSBORG, WA — Now that Carlsborg is back in the good graces of the Growth Management Act, Clallam County officials are zeroed in on building the long-awaited sewer and water reuse project for the unincorporated community west of Sequim.

A state Growth Management Hearings Board on June 4 dismissed its 2008 finding of noncompliance and invalidity for the Carlsborg urban growth area that prevented business from expanding.

Clallam County’s interim zoning controls, which restricted new development during the appeals process, automatically expired in 10 days.

“It’s all over,” Commissioner Mike Chapman said in a joint meeting with Clallam County Public Utility District officials Tuesday.

“The order of invalidity has been lifted. The 10 days have passed. The way the ordinance was written, someone can walk in today and start their permit application.”

The county still plans to build a $15.6 million Class A wastewater treatment and water reuse system for the hamlet of 867 residents on the west side of the Dungeness River.

The county has been mulling the project for the past two decades.

The PUD will own and operate the sewer after it is built.

The Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board cited the urban growth area’s lack of a sewer in its original finding of noncompliance and invalidity.

The county appealed the growth board ruling in court — and won — while bringing the sewer closer to fruition.

Last year, the project received a $10 million loan from the state Public Works Trust Fund.

The loan will be repaid over 30 years at 0.5 percent interest from the county’s Opportunity Fund, which comes from a portion of state sales tax revenue.

The Opportunity Fund is intended to promote economic development in economically distressed rural counties.

“This is a good use of those monies,” said John Wilson, a senior engineer with Seattle-based BHC Consultants, who was hired to work on the Carlsborg project in 2006.

Clallam County already has committed $4 million to the project, a fourth of which will provide financial assistance to property owners.

Wilson suggested that new building permits be contingent on an eventual connection to the sewer.

PUD General Manager Doug Nass said the main concern from property owners over the years has been “what’s it going to cost me?”

“We’ve been struggling with that ever since,” Nass said.

Although connection costs and monthly fees are still unknown, Wilson said the county’s financing plan negates the need for the PUD to form a local utilities district to assess property owners and “allows a more flexible, efficient sewer system to better meet the specific needs of individual property owners.”

County and PUD officials said they want to expedite the project as much as possible to take the guesswork out of the cost and take advantage of a favorable bidding climate.

“As we develop a connection policy, it will take a lot of the financial mystery out of the equation for the individual landowner,” Clallam County Commissioner Jim McEntire said.

Wilson raised the possibility of breaking up the project into smaller pieces to save costs.

According to the draft facilities plan that PUD commissioners approved last week, the sewer would be built in 2014, with initial connections starting in April 2015.

The revised sewer plan moves the treatment facility from Matriotti Creek to the southeast corner of the PUD property at 110 Idea Place.

The 326-page document, which is available at, has been submitted to the state Department of Ecology for approval.

There are two main reasons for building a sewer in Carlsborg: to provide adequate infrastructure for a growing community that now supports 1,100 jobs and to reduce groundwater pollution from failing septic tanks.

County health officials say older on-site septic systems are polluting the porous Dungeness Valley aquifer with nitrates, which can harm people and fish.

Wilson used the past four years of recorded nitrate levels in one well to project that nitrates will exceed federal drinking water standards in Carlsborg by 2023.

Sewer opponents, mainly residential property owners, have challenged the science behind the nitrate claim, saying there is no evidence to link the pollutants to septic systems.

People with newer septic systems with nitrate controls don’t have to connect to the sewer.

Wilson said the capacity will expand as more and more people connect.

Projections say the sewer will serve the equivalent of 570 residential customers by 2030 and 1,360 homes by 2050.

The population of Carlsborg is projected to rise to 1,410 by 2030 and 2,150 by 2050.

Reclaimed water from the treatment facility would be used to recharge the aquifer.

Some reclaimed water would be piped the Clallam County Fire District No. 3 station for fire training purposes.

It also could be used for irrigation, watering yards, air conditioning units, washing vehicles or even a fishing pond, Wilson said.

“I’d emphasise that Class A reclaimed water is going to be a better quality than what you’ll find in the Dungeness or Matriotti Creek or other regional classic water sources in the area,” Wilson said.

The PUD hopes to use the reclaimed water to obtain additional water rights in the Dungeness Valley, which gets bone-dry in the late summer.

Sludge from the sewer would be hauled off for disposal, the plan says.

Officials said the treatment facility will be covered to prevent odor and surrounded to keep people from seeing it.

A second treatment option is to pipe sewage to the city of Sequim’s treatment facility and pipe reclaimed water back to Carlsborg using the U.S. Highway 101 bridge over the Dungeness River.

Earlier plans to pipe it over Railroad Bridge were scratched because of seismic concerns.

Wilson said the Sequim option would cost $9.8 million compared with the $6.7 million Carlsborg option.

McEntire said the county, PUD and city of Sequim should all agree on a common set of numbers and choose the least expensive option.

He and PUD Commissioner Hugh Haffner expressed an interest in cutting back the project timeline by several months.

“Time is money, and that’s one way to lower the cost,” McEntire said.

“And then that improves the decision-making environment for the individual landowners in Carlsborg as well.

“I want to minimize the cost to the individual landowner in our connection cost, in so doing to encourage folks to make the decision to hook up earlier than later.”

Nass added: “The PUD’s position is whatever the lowest cost cycle for the customer is the best way to go.”

“We don’t care if it goes to Sequim or it doesn’t go to Sequim,” he said.

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