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Four Oak Harbor sewer sites aired

Oak Harbor’s engineering firm is recommending four possible sites for the city’s new wastewater treatment plant. They include Windjammer Park, the Oak Harbor Marina, the old city shops at the northern end of City Beach Street, and Beachview Farm.  - Graphic courtesy of Public Works
Oak Harbor’s engineering firm is recommending four possible sites for the city’s new wastewater treatment plant. They include Windjammer Park, the Oak Harbor Marina, the old city shops at the northern end of City Beach Street, and Beachview Farm.
— image credit: Graphic courtesy of Public Works

After months of research and gathering input from the public, Oak Harbor is now looking at four possible sites for a new wastewater treatment plant.

They include Windjammer Park, the Oak Harbor Marina, the old city shop at the northern end of City Beach Street, and Beachview Farm (more commonly known as Fakkema Farm) located just outside the city’s western boundary.

A final selection is still months away, but with no obvious best choice, the city council may need all the time it can get. Some council members know which sites they like, others which ones they don’t like. Yet still others haven’t even made it that far.

“I can see pros and cons in all of them,” City Councilwoman Beth Munns said.

The four sites are the recommended alternatives of Carollo, a national engineering firm the city hired in 2010. The $1.09 million contract tasks the firm with creating a preliminary engineering and facilities plan for the proposed treatment plant over a 17-month period.

Oak Harbor is planning to replace its existing wastewater treatment plants at Windjammer Park and on the Seaplane Base with a single new $70 million facility. The goal is to have the plant finished and in operation by 2017.

While there aren’t any expected changes in the list of proposed locations, it’s not yet set in stone. It must be formalized by resolution and the matter isn’t expected to go before the city council until sometime next month.

The city council got its first look at the possible sites during a special workshop at City Hall Wednesday evening. Carollo partner and engineer Brian Matson gave a presentation detailing how the choices were selected, types of technology and the benefits and challenges associated with each particular site.

The workshop wasn’t intended to be a decision-making meeting and few if any city council members left with any clear favorites. Some did figure out which alternatives they don’t like, however.

“I don’t like the Windjammer site,” said Councilman Danny Paggao in a later interview.

There are several advantages to the location, chief among them lower cost, but Paggao said the park’s project plan specifically outlines the removal of the existing plant. The park is the city’s waterfront centerpiece, and is no place for a new wastewater treatment plant, he said.

City Councilman Jim Palmer said he also dislikes the Windjammer site. The two types of wastewater treatment technologies being considered are three to six times larger than the existing facility, which is way too big for such an important area, he said.

But the marina location is an even worse location, as Palmer sees it.

“That was the least impressive of the three to me initially,” Palmer said.

Depending on the type of technology used, it would require leasing land from the Navy or doing away with the existing marina storage sheds and boatyard. It appears that the remaining two sites would have far less impact, he said.

Both have their own obstacles, however. In order for the old city shop location to work, private property would have to be purchased. It’s also centrally located, which made it unpopular with several other council members.

The Beachview site may also face some challenges as it is outside city limits. Along with an inefficient use of infrastructure, the land would have to be annexed, which is a potentially lengthy process that would require the county commissioners’ stamp of approval.

“Getting it through there would be tough,” City Councilman Jim Campbell said.

Of the four sites, Campbell said Beachview and Windjammer Park stick out in his mind. Palmer preferred Beachview and the old city shops, and Paggao said he liked the marina and Beachview. Munns said it was too soon for her to have any solid preferences.

Fortunately, the city has a lot of time to investigate each option more thoroughly. According to a loose timeline, the city council won’t be asked to make a final choice until August.

A public meeting on the four sites and the types of technology that could be utilized at each will be held Tuesday, April 12, from 6 to 8 p.m. in Hayes Hall at Skagit Valley College.

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