Council adopts infrastructure plan

While infrastructure had become a hot topic both locally and nationally, the Oak Harbor City Council quietly adopted two plans last week for improving and expanding the city’s sewer and stormwater systems.

The Comprehensive Sewer Plan calls for $23.8 million in projects over the next 20 years. That does not include a new or expanded wastewater facility, currently estimated at $21.5 million, that the city will need in 10 years to keep up with required capacity. The sewer plan was prepared by the Seattle-based consultants, Tetra Tech/KMC.

The Comprehensive Stormwater Drainage Plan calls for $5.8 million in projects to fix current problems and future concerns predicted by computer models over 25 years. One of the high-priority projects would finally mend, at a cost of $858,000, a clog-prone line that leads to wintertime flooding on Highway 20 near Burger King.

With few questions and no comments from the public, the City Council adopted both plans at the meeting last week. The council was previously briefed about the projects at a workshop.

The next step is for the city to begin mapping out how to pay for the $51 million worth of necessary projects over the next 20 to 25 years.

In an interview, City Engineer Eric Johnston explained that projects identified in the sewer plans are separated into projects to maintain or fix the existing system; projects to handle growth in the city; and projects to improve the treatment facility.

Johnston said how to pay for the projects will be a policy question for the city council to decide, but there’s a number of possible funding sources.

Projects needed because of new development could be funded through system development fees, also known as impact fees, that developers pay to hook into the system. Projects needed because of development may also be directly funded, at least in part, by developers who are doing the building.

Also, the city collects money from ratepayers for the sewer enterprise fund. And there’s the city’s limited general fund and grant possibilities. The city has a $1 million grant for sewer systems in the Goldie Road area.

Here’s a look at some of the major sewer projects:

l Scenic Heights sewers are currently under construction and are estimated to cost $1.3 million.

l A trunk sewer line, lift station and force main are scheduled to be constructed in the Goldie Road and Heller Road areas in 2008 and 2009. The expansion projects are estimated to cost $3.7 million.

l A force main and lift station is planned for the Crosby Road area in 2009. The development-related project is estimated to cost $1.8 million.

l Trunk sewer lines, a force main and lift station on Fairway Lane at Swantown Road is estimated to cost $3.3 million. The project is based on projected growth in the area. The project is estimated to be completed by 2011.

l A pump station at the sewage treatment facility in Windjammer Park needs to be upgraded to handle larger volumes, but also to provide redundancy. The 2009 project is estimated at $1.9 million.

l The force main between the sewage treatment facility and the Seaplane Base lagoon system needs to be upgraded or replaced because of capacity and corrosion issues. The $6.1 million project is scheduled for 2012.

l An additional siphon line is being installed at the Seaplane Base lagoon system this year, before the surrounding area is flooded to become a wetland and access is decreased. The cost is estimated at $1 million.

l Sewer lines need to be upgraded on Heller Road and Whidbey Street in 2010 because of growth on the northwest side of the city. It is estimated to cost $845,000.

l Sewer lines from Ely Street to City Beach may have to be upgraded in 2011 because of increased capacity, specifically the new sewer lines planned for the Goldie Road area. The cost is estimated at $2.1 million.

l The city also plans $825,000 in various system improvements in 2007 and 2009, most notably the installation of data logging systems at critical lift stations. The data logging systems are like “engine check lights at pump stations,” Johnston said.

The sewer plan also includes a “rough, conceptual estimate” of what it would cost to increase the capacity of treatment at the Seaplane Base lagoon system while demolishing the aging treatment facility at the waterfront Windjammer Park, Johnston said. The estimate came in at more than $21 million.

The plan states that additional treatment capacity will be needed by 2017. It takes about five years to permit and build a plant.

“It’s safe to say we need to start planning early for a sewer treatment plant,” he said. “They are very expensive.”

Johnston pointed out that a city committee and a consultant are currently looking at the possibilities for increasing sewage treatment capacity. Among the options are updating or rebuilding the treatment facility at Windjammer Park, building a new facility at the site of the old city shops or expanding the Seaplane Base facilities.

The committee is planning to report to City Council next month.

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