Oak Harbor City Council eyes $70 million sewer plant
By JUSTIN BURNETT
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
July 6, 2010 · Updated 3:17 PM
Oak Harbor decision makers will meet for their first workshop later this month concerning the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant expected to cost city ratepayers up to $70 million.
The workshop will focus on a prospective $1 million contract that will result in the development of a wastewater treatment facilities plan, a document required by state law, but will also include discussion concerning possible locations and the type of plant to be built.
“It’s a significant contract so it warrants a significant amount of discussion,” said Eric Johnston, the engineer for the city of Oak Harbor.
The city currently processes its wastewater in two treatment plants, the facility located in Windjammer Park and the lagoons located near Crescent Harbor on the Seaplane Base. While both are currently meeting the requirements specified in their state-issued permits, they may be on borrowed time. City officials believe they are both so old that they won’t be able to keep up with the state Department of Ecology’s increasingly stringent water quality standards.
Their capacity is already strained, said Larry Michaels, the plant manager for both facilities. The Windjammer Park plant can process only 600,000 gallons of the 1.5 million gallons of wastewater produced within the city every day. The rest has to be shuttled by pipe to the lagoon site.
The U.S. Navy’s decision to permanently reopen the saltwater marsh in Crescent Harbor to saltwater in 2009 has caused other problems as well. On extremely high tides, there is a chance that the lagoon facility could be flooded with saltwater.
According to Johnston, the hope is to have a new facility built and operating within seven years. No contracts have been approved yet, but plans are in the works to increase city utility rates to help fund the capital project. Grants and taxpayer-approved bonds are other funding possibilities.
Johnston plans to bring several options before the City Council during the July 15 workshop. Each will focus on the assumed costs for each prospective site. There are currently four possible locations: building over the existing sites, a city-owned property behind the old city shop on SE Eighth Street, and a yet-to be determined site on Maylor’s Point.
At a July 1 Public Works Standing Committee meeting, City Councilman Scott Dudley asked which location would be the cheapest for the taxpayer, and what impacts could be expected from a new facility on the Seaplane Base.
“I don’t have the answer to that yet,” Johnston said.
Some money could be saved by building on the existing facility at Windjammer Park, as it already contains a great deal of infrastructure. However, the city would then have to figure out how to shuttle wastewater from Navy housing that is now processed in the lagoon facility to the new plant.
Each of the sites being considered carry their own advantages and disadvantages. According to Johnston, a fifth option would to develop one system that would operate on multiple sites, the same way the existing facilities work together.
The adoption of a $1 million contract with a consulting firm to create the facilities plan is scheduled for council approval Aug. 4. The finished document, which is required by law to also be approved by the Department of Ecology, is expected to take two years to create. Johnston said it would be a highly public process, including up over 25 public meetings.Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Justin Burnett at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5054.