Sound Off | Negotiations with Navy over connecting to sewer have ceased

As Mayor of Oak Harbor, I appreciate the partnership the city has with Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. The city has been in negotiations with the Navy regarding connecting the Seaplane Base sewer system to our Clean Water Facility (CWF). At this juncture, it has become apparent that the Navy’s proposals to the city will not be advantageous to our ratepayers. With this in mind, I cannot in good conscious recommend the city move forward with negotiations.

For this reason, the City of Oak Harbor is ceasing negotiations to connect the Navy’s Seaplane Base sewer to our CWF. It is an unfortunate outcome after over two years of discussions between the City and Navy teams. As the Navy investigates their wastewater treatment options, specifically relating to state regulations and environmental requirements, we remain available for discussions again in the future. However, future negotiations must be beneficial to both the Navy and our ratepayers. This means the Navy must pay its fair share of the cost.

The City of Oak Harbor took on the task of building a state-of-the-art, award-winning facility that meets state and federal requirements for the environmental processing of municipal wastewater. This facility is built to last the next 50 years while putting high-quality water back into the Puget Sound. These types of facilities are expensive because they must meet stringent state and federal regulations and requirements. The high cost of this facility comes from the Washington State Department of Ecology and its requirement regarding the removal of nutrients to stringent levels in order to protect endangered marine life in our Puget Sound.

The City Council made decisions to protect our community and environment by constructing a facility that benefits the greater Oak Harbor area, including our Navy community partners and their family members. The current Washington State Department of Ecology requirements are forcing ratepayers to bear the burden of the environmental regulations and the high costs they create in building facilities like the CWF in Oak Harbor.

It is not fair to expect the City of Oak Harbor ratepayers to subsidize the Navy’s connection costs or be impacted by the loss of future growth capacity of the facility. I look forward to continuing conversations with regulators, elected officials in Washington state and the Navy regarding the concerns this negotiation created around the cost of meeting environmental requirements and the burden current regulations place on ratepayers.

I greatly value the city’s relationship with NASWI, and I expect that the cessation of negotiations regarding the CWF will in no way impact our other partnerships.

• Bob Severns is mayor of the City of Oak Harbor