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Navy sewer plant site added; Oak Harbor residents to get their say soon
A new site on Navy property was added to the list of potential sites for the city of Oak Harbor’s $70-million wastewater treatment facility.
The Oak Harbor City Council adopted a resolution during its regular Tuesday meeting that directs the staff and consultant to evaluate five potential sites for the future facility.
The city is hosting a forum Tuesday, April 12, to gather input from residents for the first time about all five sites. It’s from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Skagit Valley College’s Hayes Hall. Also, the city has an online survey at www.oakharbor.org.
Previously, only four potential sites had been identified. But City Engineer Eric Johnston announced Tuesday that officials at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station had a change of heart over the possibility of allowing the city to build a facility on Navy-owned property near Crescent Harbor. Base officials previously told the city the property wasn’t available.
“They had a change of direction in terms of their operational planning,” Johnston said.
The new potential site is next to the wastewater treatment lagoons that the city runs on Navy property.
Johnston said city officials would have direct access to the site from Crescent Harbor Road. But, he explained, the treated water couldn’t be discharged into Crescent Harbor because of sensitive shellfish beds. Instead, it would have to be pumped back to Oak Harbor.
The other potential sites include Windjammer Park, the old city shops at the end of City Beach Street, property at the Oak Harbor Marina and the adjacent Seaplane Base, and Beachview Farm, commonly known as the Fakkema farm.
Tuesday, several council members discussed some of the sites they don’t like, but they didn’t talk of favorites.
Councilman Scott Dudley, for example, made it clear he doesn’t like the idea of putting the facility at the waterfront Windjammer Park. He asked whether choosing the site would mean displacing the ball fields.
Johnston said building the facility on the ball fields is indeed an option, though he said new ball fields would be built elsewhere to compensate. Or, he said, the facility could be built on park property farther west from the current sewer facility or northward, which could require the purchase of private property.
Councilman Rick Almberg urged everyone to keep an open mind about the issue, especially since new technology for treating wastewater is light-years ahead of the city’s current facilities. That means cleaner water and less odor.
“It’s tantamount to going from an outhouse to indoor plumbing,” he said.
Oak Harbor currently handles wastewater treatment at two sites, a facility at Windjammer Park and treatment lagoons on Navy property. The plants are aging, don’t have capacity to keep pace with projected population growth and lack the technology to meet the state’s increasingly stringent water quality standards.