The leadership of Clallam County, the City of Sequim and the Clallam County Public Utility District had plenty to talk about when they gathered for the very first time, Monday, Dec. 3.
In addition to the Sequim councilors and City Manager Steve Burkett, all three county commissioners and County Administrator Jim Jones attended the meeting. PUD General Manager Doug Nass and Commissioner Ted Simpson also participated.
Sequim Mayor Ken Hays said that while he and Burkett have been hoping to “find ways to work together with all of our neighbors as much as possible,” the meeting was largely prompted by recent discussions that call for piping solid waste from Carlsborg to Sequim’s sewer treatment plant.
“While it hasn’t been set in stone, that’s looking likely,” Hays said.
He noted that in the current economy, with rising costs and diminishing revenues, working together just makes sense.
At a Nov. 5 meeting of the Clallam County Commission, Bob Martin, the county’s public works administrative director, said building a sewage treatment plant in Carlsborg would cost an estimated $5,860,000, while piping the sewage to Sequim would cost the county approximately $4,161,000. The latter option would save another $1 million through reduced maintenance and operating costs over the next two decades.
“That’s about $2.6 million over the next 20 years,” he said.
The commissioners directed county staff to investigate further the possibility of utilizing the City of Sequim’s system for treating Carlsborg sewage.
During the meeting Hays told the representatives of PUD and the county that the city welcomed the opportunity. He noted the city already provides similar services for Sunland and the tribal campuses.
City Public Works Director Paul Haines said Sequim now has twice the needed capacity.
“We need to use that capacity,” Haines said. “The region needs to use it.
“We believe there’s an advantage to everyone. We’re ready to undertake the engineering.”
Haines also repeatedly noted that the most critical aspect of ensuring the plan’s success will occur in the first stage as the three entities work out the roles and responsibilities of each.
Tom Martin, PUD water and wastewater systems assistant, said he believes the three-year plan sketched out by the City of Sequim for completion of the project is probably optimistic.
He noted there are significant engineering challenges ahead, including the design of the piping that will transport the waste over or under the Dungeness River.
County Commissioner Jim McEntire said by combining the efforts of three public authorities they are more likely to find funding for the project. In tough times that’s important, he said.
“This is a good effort. It’s the kind of thing we need to pursue more of.”
Hays said the council “is committed to keeping fees low” for Carlsborg.
Haines said because the connection will serve multiple users, a “wholesale” price is likely.
The assembled leaders also discussed the new Dungeness Water Management Rule, which the Washington Department of Ecology will finalize in early January.
Hays said he has mostly supported it, but added that he hopes that state funding that will pay for water for domestic use for individual homeowners also will provide for the needs of the City of Sequim and for PUD.
City Attorney Craig Ritchie said everyone “is walking on eggs” as they wait to see how the rule’s implementation unfolds.
He added that the rule, as currently written, doesn’t properly address consumptive use of water. He noted that in Sequim much of the collected wastewater is treated and reused. A good portion “returns to the earth,” he said.
Ritchie said further amendments to the rule may be required to address the concerns of the city and PUD.
McEntire also discussed his concerns with the rule, saying that it currently requires homebuilders to utilize the services of a public water system if the service is available in a “reasonable and timely manner.”
He called for more specifics on the meaning of “reasonable and timely.”
He also pointed out that while the City of Sequim and most of the public water systems in the area have sufficient rights for the immediate future, they also eventually will be required to purchase mitigation water.
“We need to know how that will be done,” he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Ted Miller said that while the city has sufficient water for several years, “human nature being what it is, we’ll forget about it. We need to start looking at this now.”