Cross-jurisdiction sewer plan moves ahead in Burbank

The proposal, now under state review, is seen as key to developing a business park in the area.

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BURBANK -- More than a year of negotiations between the Port of Walla Walla and city of Pasco on an unusual, multi-jurisdictional sewer service proposal came to a successful agreement last week. But work on the project is just beginning, officials say.

Last week members of the Pasco City Council took the latest step in approving an interlocal agreement with the Port to provide sewer treatment service to Burbank. Previously approved by the Port, the proposal is now in a State Environmental Policy Act review.

Completion of that process is one of numerous steps before groundbreaking can take place on the project, said Port Executive Director Jim Kuntz. He said the completion of the sewer agreement with Pasco will likely be commemorated in a joint agreement signing between Pasco Mayor Matt Watkins and Port Commission President Paul Schneidmiller.

In the meantime, Port staff also have the green light from commissioners to proceed with design and permitting of the pipeline that will be used to transport sewage under the Snake River and into Pasco for treatment.

"It's now full speed ahead," Kuntz said. "We're going to work really hard on the design phase. Try to get this thing out to bid and built sometime this year."

If all goes well, he said, construction could begin this summer.

The Port has budgeted $1.4 million for design, permits and construction of the connection to Pasco. The majority of that is expected to go to construction, Kuntz said. He estimated permitting at around $50,000, and design work around $200,000. Refined estimates are expected as the project continues.

Sewer service is the latest component in attracting development to the Port's Burbank Business Park, as well as providing services to a community on a septic system. Port officials estimate construction of a treatment plant could be as much as $6 million, versus the cost of tying into Pasco's system and buying excess capacity.

Once built, residents won't be required to tie into sewer, but it will be an option for the neighborhoods. Kuntz said he expects the School District will be an enthusiastic recipient of the services. Businesses that purchase lots at the Port's Burbank Business Park will also be among the first recipients of the service.

"Having an ability to access sewer treatment will allow for more quality developments to happen in Burbank," he said.

He said the Port has fielded calls about its commercial and light industrial lots at the 100-acre-plus business park on the edge of town. With the interchange nearby slated for a May opening, Kuntz said area's visibility is bound to increase even more. In the meantime, "nothing can happen (with development) at this point until they can have sewer."

Under the agreement -- which Kuntz heralded as an example of regional cooperation -- the Port will start to buy 100,000 gallons per day of capacity from Pasco for $900,000. That amount will be paid over a three-year period.

In lieu of taxes the Port will pay roughly $2,000 to Pasco per month. The monthly sewer bill will be based on Pasco's municipal code.

The agreement provides the Port options to buy another 100,000 gallons of capacity per day for another $900,000 -- adjusted for inflation -- in 15 years and then again within 50 more years of that.

Kuntz said permitting is expected to be the next giant to tackle. Numerous agencies will need to approve aspects of the project. Those include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla County and the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, among others.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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