If King County wants to buy a little-used rail route and develop it into a trail that extends 14 miles into Snohomish County, that's fine with Snohomish County officials.
They just don't want to be forced into paying for something they can't afford in a gambit started by King County Executive Ron Sims. King County taxpayers could ultimately pick up the bill to buy and build the chunk of trail north of the King County line. Sims is negotiating the purchase of the Eastside route, mostly a 100-foot swath that stretches from the edge of Renton to the Snohomish River at the Snohomish city limits.
Several years ago, a state study pinned the price at $300 million to buy the property from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. Sims on Monday said he didn't think the cost would be that much under a federal program that gives governments an easier way to turn old railroad routes into trails. The executive said he had a price in mind, but refused to disclose it.
Sims said one reason he didn't tell Snohomish County officials about his plan to buy the land is because relations are strained over the Brightwater sewer treatment plant.
The plant is to be built on rural land in south Snohomish County just north of the King County line. Snohomish County is asking for King County to pay more for roads and other improvements to reduce the impact of the plant.
Sims said that's why he decided against asking for Snohomish County's help paying for the rails-to-trail project. "It's easier to get on and do it alone," he said. It's hard to ignore the posturing in Sims' plan, Snohomish County Councilman Jeff Sax said. Even so, the council needs to hear more about the proposal, he said.
"I don't think he can afford to do it all by himself," Sax said. "Who knows ... maybe Ron will buy the trail as Brightwater mitigation."
If King County taxpayers want to pay for the trail and build it, that would be just fine with him, Sax said. Part of the trail is in his district. Snohomish County Councilman David Gossett agreed.
"If King County uses their money to build a park in Snohomish County, quite frankly I can't see a downside," Gossett said.
In the Snohomish County executive's office, staff members are looking into the trail "to see what it is and what it means," executive director Gary Weikel said. They want to have a report ready for Executive Aaron Reardon when he returns from a trade visit to Ireland. The 47-mile route runs just east of Lake Washington from Renton to the Snohomish River. Snohomish County's Centennial Trail starts on the other side of the river, and eventually will stretch to the Skagit County line.
Marc Krandel, senior planner with the Snohomish County Parks and Recreation Department, said the trail Sims is pushing has been discussed before. But he can't imagine King County being willing to pick up the entire cost. Seattle attorney and environmental activist Peter Goldman and the Seattle-based Cascade Land Conservancy brought the idea to him, Sims said.
In negotiations with the railroad last year, officials didn't want to sell the route piecemeal, so Sims said he began including the Snohomish County chunk in the talks.
"That's the assumption we've been working on," Sims said. Would he like Snohomish County to pony up some of the dough?
"Sure we would," Sims said. So far, he's not asking. And he sent nothing - no reports, no e-mails, no letters - to the Snohomish County Council about the deal before his announcement. King County Councilman Reagan Dunn, a Republican, said Sims' announcement also came as a surprise to him.
"I don't think (King) County should be in the business of buying land in other counties," he said. The land will be expensive, he said, and King County already is in a tough spot. Sims said buying the route makes sense because it someday could be used for light rail as well as recreation.
King County Councilwoman Carolyn Edmonds, a Democrat, said the trail could take a long time to build. The first and most important step now, she said, is investigating whether King County can buy it.
"If there are costs to Snohomish County, it will be costs they will incur," Edmonds said. "This is not at all a deal like Brightwater." While Brightwater set a precedent for King County having the say in that regional issue, owning a hiking trail in a neighboring county is very different, Dunn said.
didn't buy 14 miles of Brightwater,"
Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2005
The Snohomish County Council approved a $70 million agreement
Monday that will allow King County to build the controversial
Brightwater sewage treatment plant near Maltby. The council still has
to adopt four supporting ordinances in the next two months, but
Monday's 4-1 vote was considered the bellwether tally on the agreement.
About 60 people packed council chambers, most, including labor leaders and developers, supporting the agreement because it would bring new construction and jobs while protecting habitat for fish.
"Let's get on with it," said Deborah Nicely, who lives across the street from the Brightwater site. "I see this as a tremendous step forward." Nicely said building a state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant at the site is preferable to some other industrial businesses that could have been built there. Councilman Dave Gossett said the agreement is the best Snohomish County could hope for, considering King County won the legal right to get permits from Snohomish County without any mitigation.
"We have gone to court and lost," Gossett said. The $70 million will be used to build parks, roads, sidewalks, bicycle lanes and fish protection near the treatment plant site, 114 acres on Highway 9 near Highway 522. The money will be paid gradually as King County gets the permits it needs from Snohomish County. King County also agreed to use a hearing examiner to allow the public to comment as it goes through Snohomish County's permitting process. County Councilman Jeff Sax cast the dissenting vote.
"After four years of fighting, this is your representative democracy in action," said Sax, who charged that the public wasn't given enough time to look at an agreement that he said sells Snohomish County short. Sax said he prefers building smaller sewage treatment plants in the communities that need them. He said such plants, similar to the one recently built on the Tulalip Reservation, would use cleaner technology that allows treated water to be pumped back into the aquifer instead of piped out to Puget Sound.
Sax is being investigated by the State Attorney General's Office and the Washington State Patrol for leaking confidential details of the agreement to Brightwater opponents. A similar proceeding is taking place at the county level. Brightwater neighbor Jim MacRae said the county's decision would force him to move out of a county that has become subservient to King County.
"I'm fortunate enough to have the funds to walk, and I will," he said. Members of the Sno-King Environmental Alliance said they would continue the fight. Their lawsuit over Brightwater's earthquake protection measures is the lone obstacle standing in King County's way. The Snohomish County Council also adopted temporary seismic and odor ordinances Monday. They replace similar laws that were set to expire at midnight tonight. They will need to be made permanent as part of the agreement with King County, said Millie Judge, Snohomish County's deputy prosecutor.
The Snohomish County Council also has to adopt a law to allow the county to sign the agreement with King County and an ordinance that establishes a framework for siting essential public facilities, such as sewage treatment plants, in the county. The council agreed to consider all four ordinances in the next two months, Judge said.
Reporter Lukas Velush: 425-339-3449 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published: Tuesday, October 11, 2005
In exchange for $70 million, better odor control and improved earthquake safety, Snohomish County on Monday agreed to allow King County to build a sewage treatment plant near Maltby.
"It is a settlement that has some bitterness on one side of it, eventually having it built in this county, but the sweetness side is that the major concerns of the citizens are fulfilled," Nelson said. King County Executive Ron Sims made his county's end of the deal official Monday following last-minute negotiations on how the $70 million would be paid to Snohomish County.
"For the first time, we can say Brightwater will be built," Sims said at a news conference. Brightwater will have the best earthquake and odor standards in the world, he added. Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon opposed the decision to build Brightwater in Snohomish County but said the deal is a good one.
"King County walked into the room with $18 million, and we walked out with $70 million," Reardon said. "We negotiated a good package for our citizens." The money will be spent to build parks, roads, sidewalks, bicycle lanes and fish protection near the treatment plant site, 114 acres on Highway 9 near Highway 522. The money will be paid in chunks to Snohomish County after key steps in the permitting process.
The Snohomish County Council held hours of closed-door legal briefings
on Monday morning discussing the settlement, which was officially
released Monday afternoon.
Snohomish County Councilman Jeff Sax voted against moving ahead with the proposed settlement. He is under investigation for leaking details of the agreement to Brightwater opponents last week.
"This is a deal negotiated behind closed doors, and now the council will have to sit in front of the public and hear them tell us how right or wrong we are," Sax said. He said he plans to vote against the agreement next week, too. Nelson said the closed-door discussions prepared the council to adopt an agreement if it is approved at the upcoming public hearing.
"We did not make a decision" in closed session, Nelson said. "We were being provided with legal material that was to be considered by the County Council for eventual approval." The settlement document spells out tougher regulations for managing odor at the treatment plant and specifies that the project be designed to contain up to 5.5 million gallons of spilled sewage or chemicals. That provision is to ensure no sewage leaves the plant in the event of a catastrophic earthquake.
The agreement also requires King County to dig two new earthquake trenches under the two buildings where chemicals used in the sewage treatment process will be stored. The deal falls short of requiring that King County trench the entire site, something Brightwater opponents have asked for in lawsuits and at public hearings. The Sno-King Environmental Alliance's appeal of Brightwater's earthquake safety measures is awaiting a hearing before a King County hearing examiner in December. That litigation will be the lone obstacle to starting Brightwater construction if the Snohomish County Council approves the agreement next week.
The agreement also calls for several pending lawsuits between the two counties to be dropped. The two counties have sued each other multiple times since 2003. Negotiations have been off and on since then. This deal was primarily negotiated over the last two months. King County had wanted to have no public input, saying it should be permitted to build the sewage treatment plant at the Highway 9 and Highway 522 site allowed under Snohomish County's zoning rules.
Nelson pushed for a conditional use permit to give Snohomish County residents a say over what Brightwater would look like. Saying such an arrangement was too open ended, King County wanted something else. After eight months of negotiating, the two counties settled on a middle ground - a binding site plan that allows a hearing examiner to take public testimony but gives King County certainty it will get its permits and in a timely manner. A crucial element for Nelson, was to give Snohomish County residents a seat at the table when King County begins building the plant.
"We wanted the public to have the opportunity to review this project," Nelson said.
Spending $70 million
Here's how the $70 million King County has agreed to pay Snohomish County for building the Brightwater sewage treatment plant here would be spent:
$16.9 million: Maltby Community Park. This 40-acre park would be located within four miles of the treatment plant.
$12.2 million: Sidewalks and bicycle lanes would be installed on 228th Street SE between 39th Avenue SE and Highway 9.
$10.8 million: Fish habitat on Little Bear Creek and other streams in the Brightwater area would be improved.
$8 million: Tambark Creek Park. This park would feature both developed and natural areas.
$7.42 million: Four sidewalk and trail projects would be undertaken.
$5.5 million: Land acquisition for new parks.
$4.6 million: Sidewalks would be installed on 45th Avenue SE between 204th Street SE and 212th Street SE.
$2.95 million: King County would build and operate an education and community center.
$1.63 million: Woodinville Snohomish Road would be widened to three lanes.
Monday: The Snohomish County Council holds a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. to consider a settlement on the Brightwater sewage treatment project. The meeting is scheduled on the eighth floor, County Administration Building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., Everett. A vote scheduled immediately after will allow County Executive Aaron Reardon to sign a deal.
Oct. 18: Snohomish County Council reviews its emergency seismic and odor control laws governing sewage treatment plants.
In November: Two proposed ordinances to help Brightwater will include a development agreement and an exemption for essential public facilities.
In mid-November: King County finishes Brightwater construction plans.
February 2006: Site preparation on Brightwater begins.
Next spring: Snohomish County hires a hearing examiner to review Brightwater construction plans.
2010: Brightwater begins treating wastewater.
Published: Saturday, October 8, 2005
Snohomish County Councilman Jeff Sax is being scrutinized for allegedly leaking secret documents outlining a proposed $70 million deal to end the county's opposition to King County's massive Brightwater sewage treatment plant.
Prosecuting attorney Janice Ellis on Friday said the state Attorney General's Office has agreed to oversee an independent investigation to determine how the documents wound up in the possession of Brightwater opponents. Detectives from the Washington State Patrol likely will join the inquiry, Ellis said.
"It is my understanding that a citizen has obtained attorney-client-privileged documents, and the allegation is that she obtained them from a (county) council member," Ellis said.
Ellis said she was told evidence suggests that Sax distributed the records, which were marked "confidential." They were given out to County Council members earlier this week during closed-door negotiations about the potential for resolving lawsuits that have arisen surrounding Brightwater, which would be built in south Snohomish County.
Ellis said an independent investigation is necessary to ensure there is no perceived conflict of interest. The prosecutor's office serves as the civil attorney for Sax and other elected county officials.
"I think what is important is to have a third-party entity look at the conduct that is alleged and to assess whether there has been a violation of state law or other legal principles related to an individual's fiduciary duties, ethical obligations, etc.," Ellis said.
Sax on Friday declined to discuss whether he had leaked the records. He said his comments will come once the County Council votes on Brightwater's future.
"We need to ensure the public has ample opportunity to talk to us about such an important decision," Sax said.
County officials learned of the leak on Thursday when environmental activist Corinne Hensley filed copies of the confidential Brightwater documents as part of her testimony on the county's proposed plans for managing growth.
"I wanted to make sure it was in the public record," Hensley said.
She was questioned after the hearing by a deputy prosecutor, and said Sax had supplied the records. She told reporters the same on Friday.
Hensley said Sax passed her the documents Wednesday while she and another Brightwater opponent were outside council chambers filling out a public records request seeking access to information about the project.
"Sax came by, shook our hands and dropped a piece of crumpled paper by us - on the sofa we were sitting on," Hensley said. "We didn't know what it was. He basically said, 'You didn't see this.'†"
Hensley said she didn't realize she had been given a copy of the proposed Brightwater settlement until after she got in her car about 30 minutes later.
County Councilman Kirke Sievers, a Democrat, said that on Monday he watched Sax, a Republican, carry copies of the confidential Brightwater documents from County Council chambers. That's a breach of council protocols, Sievers said, adding that he told County Council Chairman Gary Nelson, a Republican, about what he considered a misstep.
"Any material handed out with the heading 'confidential,' even if you make notes, you hand back to the prosecutor before you leave the room," Sievers said. "We've always done that."
Although both Sax and Hensley oppose Brightwater, the two are at opposite ends of the political spectrum on most other issues.
Before targeting Brightwater, Hensley was the complainant in at least 11 appeals of county and city decisions to the Puget Sound Growth Management Hearings Board between 1994 and 2003. She is a past president of the Little Bear Creek Protective Association and has waged battles against development in the Maltby area.
Hensley said she supports Dave Somers, Sax's Democratic opponent, in the upcoming County Council election. She has a Somers sign in her front yard and a Somers placard in her car. Sax defeated Somers in the 2001 election.
Hensley said she doesn't know why Sax gave her the document, but said he has asked her to vote for him in the past.
The proposed settlement agreement discusses in detail what Snohomish County officials expect King County to do regarding Brightwater. That includes the purchase of specific parcels of land where parks would be developed or where streams would be protected.
Officials in Snohomish and King counties said the deal isn't yet official.
"It's all draft, it's a working document that hasn't been approved by anybody," Nelson said.
Because the deal isn't yet final, it would be improper for him to discuss details, he said.
Since 2000, the two counties have been negotiating over earthquake safety, odor control and how much King County should pay for the impact the project will have on Snohomish County residents.
Brightwater project director Christie True said King County will continue to negotiate in good faith.
"We've had very constructive discussions on it," she said.
The long running fight between Snohomish and King counties over the Brightwater sewage treatment plant could be over.
A document obtained by The Herald shows King County agreeing to pay $70 million to offset the impact of building the sewage treatment plant in south Snohomish County. Snohomish County Executive Director Tom Fitzpatrick said documents have been passed back and forth between the two counties as part of negotiations, but said a final deal has not been reached.
"We are continuing our negotiations and have not reached an agreement," Fitzpatrick. The $70 million would be spent on building parks, road widening, sidewalks, bike lanes and protecting the area's creeks for fish. The draft agreement also says that a hearing examiner would be hired to oversee construction of the $1.48 billion treatment plant. It also spells out details for managing odor at the treatment plant, and specifies that the project be designed to contain up to 5.5 million gallons of spilled sewage or chemicals.
That provision is to ensure no sewage would leave the plant in the event of catastrophic damage from an earthquake. A member of the Sno-King Environmental Alliance, which opposes Brightwater, provided a copy of the draft agreement to The Herald.
Earlier in negotiations, Snohomish County had been asking King County to pay $80 million and King County had been offering to pay $50 million.
WOODINVILLE - The more scientists learn about the faults that run under the future site of the Brightwater sewage treatment plant, the more plant opponents say they are justified in pushing King County to build it elsewhere.
In the past two years a combination of new and old technologies has allowed scientists to peer underneath trees, buildings and streets and for the first time see ruptures in the earth that prove there have been as many as three major quakes on the South Whidbey Island Fault in the past 3,000 years. That's what U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Craig Weaver told 50 people Monday night at an earthquake seminar sponsored by opponents of the $1.48 billion sewage treatment plant King County wants to build at Highway 9 and Highway 522.
To resident Richard Block, it adds up to one thing: King County didn't do its homework before picking the south Snohomish County site.
"I wanted to hear from the experts about the potential impact from an earthquake," said Block, who lives not far from the plant site in Woodinville. Weaver's report "just confirmed that there's a lot to this that King County probably didn't look into before it decided to politically put that plant here."
Weaver said the U.S. Geological Survey and others who study faults want to do more research on the South Whidbey Island Fault, something members of the Sno-King County Environmental Alliance interpret as meaning there's more to know about the fault system - too much to allow King County to move ahead with a plan to build Brightwater on one, perhaps two, active faults.
"They were whipping right along, saying there wasn't going to be a problem," said Charley Blaine, an alliance board member. "The problem is, they still don't know what they're dealing with."
King County officials disagree, saying they would build Brightwater to the highest available earthquake standards, ones that would allow it to survive a magnitude 6.8 to 7.3 earthquake the USGS projects for the fault line on the Brightwater site. Last fall, a King County hearing examiner ordered the county to do a second environmental impact statement to make sure the plant would survive a major earthquake on the fault.
King County has made several changes since environmentalists forced it to take another look at the earthquake danger, said Christie True, Brightwater project director. The changes would limit the amount of damage that would occur if there were a large quake, she said.
"I think it's improved the project," True said, crediting the alliance. "It certainly has changed our thinking quite a bit." Changes include rearranging the site plan to get key structures away from a known fault at the north end of the site, as well as another that may exist at the south end. King County has decided to use flexible connections on all pipelines at the facility, which would allow them to move instead of break during a quake.
It also decided to keep chemicals used to treat sewage in separate locations to reduce the chance they could mix and explode. Still, the environmental review shows an earthquake on the fault system would be highly unlikely, said True, who called the probability of one happening "absolutely unlikely."
"Even with the worst-case scenario, the public wouldn't be harmed," she said. "There would be some environmental damage."
True said it's too late for King County to find another site. King County is expected to outgrow its sewage treatment capacity about the time Brightwater opens in 2010, she said. The second environmental review did not turn up anything that suggested moving the plant is necessary, she said. True added that final results of the review are due in July.
Construction on the 114-acre Brightwater site is on schedule to start by the end of the year. The treatment plant, which will serve south Snohomish and north King counties, is expected to cost $1.48 billion. Scenarios in the supplemental environmental review show some circumstances in which Brightwater could be damaged by an earthquake.
If such an earthquake did happen on the one known fault on the north end of the site, the plant would sustain no damage, True said.
a suspected fault on the south
end of the property caused a quake, the pipeline bringing sewage to the
plant and taking treated effluent to Puget Sound could break, possibly
spilling sewage in a localized area. Otherwise, there would be no
Saying that Snohomish County has intentionally tried to slow the start of construction on the Brightwater sewage treatment plant, King County on Monday announced that it has filed three lawsuits against its neighbor to the north.
King County also on Monday asked Gov. Christine Gregoire to impose stiff financial sanctions on Snohomish County and threatened to impose a new building moratorium on south Snohomish County and King County.
"We need to start building it," said Christie True, Brightwater's project director. She said King County's two sewage treatment plants will run out of capacity by 2010. "The longer we delay getting started, the more chance we won't be able to prevent sewage overflows."
Snohomish County Council Chairman Gary Nelson said his county is not trying to get in King County's way.
"We're not delaying their project; let me make that very clear," said Nelson, who had not seen King County's lawsuit announcement late Monday.
"I think they're beginning to panic," he said. "(They're) not looking at things in the way they would like them looked at if they were on the other side of the fence."
King County's lawsuit challenges two emergency laws the Snohomish County Council approved in late April, one that regulates odor and one that sets seismic building standards.
True said the laws are part of a well-established pattern by Snohomish County to intentionally delay and thwart King County at every step in its bid to build the $1.48 billion treatment plant on Highway 9 in south Snohomish County by 2010.
King County will move to ban all new sewer hookups in its service area - including much of south Snohomish County - by the end of the year if construction doesn't start this summer, True said.
In its Monday announcement, King County officially asked Gregoire to strip away millions of dollars that Snohomish County gets from gasoline, retail sales, liquor and other taxes as sanctions for attempting to block building Brightwater here. Those dollars go to roads, police, parks and other county services.
Nelson said Snohomish County tried to set up a process for building Brightwater, but King County challenged that process in court. Since losing that battle, Snohomish County has fallen back on the conditional-use permit process it uses for all other projects in the county.
True countered that Brightwater shouldn't have to go under a conditional-use permit because the site already is zoned for a sewage treatment plant.
Nelson said the odor and seismic standards come straight from King County's construction plan. But True said those laws also allow Snohomish County to put additional restrictions on King County that could delay or stop Brightwater.
Two of the lawsuits were filed with the Growth Management Hearings Board, which is charged with helping site unpopular essential facilities such as sewage treatment plants in other counties. The third was filed in King County Superior Court.
The first two lawsuits ask the growth board to toss out the odor and seismic laws because Snohomish County failed to get the board's approval before adopting them.
The third lawsuit asks a judge to throw out the odor law because it's the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency's job to regulate air emissions. The lawsuit suggests it's illegal to have duplicative odor ordinances.
King County filed the lawsuits Friday, but didn't announce the news and the call for sanctions until late Monday.
Snohomish County issued King County a permit to demolish buildings on the Highway 9 site, but denied a grading permit. Nelson said the county is waiting to authorize the start of grading until King County completes a court-ordered review of the earthquake danger at the site.
True said Snohomish County told King County the grading permit - and others that it will soon seek to get - will be denied until all Brightwater-related court appeals are worked out, something that will take years.
Regional Trip (to learn
about European method for Seattle's [King
European junket defended: Officials with the Alderwood Water District say their weeklong visit, which cost $32,450, was a sound investment for their planned $70 million sewage treatment plant.
By Bill Sheets Everett Herald, Published: Monday, May 9, 2005
LYNNWOOD - A trip to Europe to study state-of-the-art sewer systems cost a local water and sewer district more than $32,000. The Alderwood Water District sent 11 people, including three commissioners, six staff members and two consultants, on the trip last month.
District officials say the trip could save them money in the long run, providing the best information in purchasing a multimillion-dollar treatment system as part of the planned $70 million rebuilding of its Picnic Point plant. The old system, built around 1970, can't handle growing demand, officials said.
"When you're considering an expense of this magnitude, it's important you gather all the facts," Commissioner Donna Cross said.
Cross, Commission President Phillip Lay and Commissioner Larry Jones represented the board on the trip, which took place April 1-9. Staff included general manager Arden Blackledge, engineers, supervisors and an executive assistant. The group visited the seacoast towns of Swanage and Lowestoft, England and Campbeltown, Scotland, to view their sewage treatment systems, then flew to Switzerland to see a new dryer system for biosolids. Expense records show the total for airfare, lodging, transportation and food for the trip at $32,450.82.
approved the trip March 14, following a request by Blackledge that day.
He asked for $3,000 per person, including airfare.
Blackledge said that many people needed to go because they have different expertise and points of view.
"I see certain things. Supervisors see certain things. Engineers see certain things," he said. Executive assistant Ginger Desy accompanied the group to keep track of transportation, hotels and expenses, Blackledge said.
"It was a rather compact trip," he said. "We did get one day off." Commissioner Lay said he and Cross went on the trip because, unlike Jones, they are not part of the district's group that has been studying the issue.
"We kind of went almost as outsiders, as an overview" to make sure they were receiving unbiased impressions, Lay said. The money for the trip came from the district's capital improvement fund, which has accrued about $90 million, Jones said. The district staff plans to cut back on other travel and training expenses this year to help offset the cost of the European trip, Lay added.
The district is planning to have its new plant operating by 2008. It will be financed with a charge for new customers connecting to the system, with bonds and through the capital fund. The district will eventually raise its rates to help pay off the bonds, Lay said, with the amount of increase to be determined.
While the current plant has a capacity of 3 million gallons per day, the new plant will have an expandable capacity of 4 million gallons a day, Blackledge said. Treated effluent is emptied into Puget Sound. The system viewed in Europe, called a membrane bioreactor, treats wastewater so it's 15 times cleaner than systems currently used, Blackledge said. The effluent is filtered through either a flat plate or a tube containing near-microscopic holes.
"actually blocks even some viruses," Blackledge said. Each bioreactor
costs $5 million to $6 million.
The group went to Europe because membrane bioreactors in the United States are limited to retrofits or to systems that hadn't been in place long, he said. Membrane bioreactors have been used in Europe longer because they take up less space and because environmental standards in some areas there are much stricter than here, Lay said.
Three different companies sell membrane bioreactors, Blackledge said. Officials wanted to determine which is the most problem-free and would last the longest. Seeing the technology firsthand, the group got information about systems that companies' salespeople might not disclose or be aware of, Blackledge said. The technology also will be used in King County's planned Brightwater treatment plant in Maltby.
The Alderwood district voluntarily agreed with the state to a deadline of June by which it would have its plan for its new plant 30 percent completed. Part of that plan was to have selected its brand of membrane bioreactor, Blackledge said.
Though no official change in state standards for sewage is planned, officials anticipate that standards could get tougher during the estimated 30- to 50-year lifetime of the new plant. If the district didn't incorporate the new technology, "probably within 10 or 15 years we'd be required to do some kind of retrofitting," Blackledge said.
Building a plant with membrane bioreactors is comparable in price to building a secondary treatment plant, Blackledge said. Incorporating the new technology would save a significant amount of money over retrofitting, he said, though he didn't have an exact figure.
"This is probably
one of the most important decisions this district will make in
If Snohomish County doesn't get moving on the Brightwater sewage treatment plant, King County wants the state to penalize everyone who lives in the county by taking away millions of dollars for roads, police, parks and other county services.
King County also threatens to slap a building moratorium on south Snohomish County that would freeze the building of all new homes and anything else that requires a sewer hookup. Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Bothell, Brier and Woodway especially will suffer if Snohomish County doesn't start issuing critical permits, according to a letter from King County Executive Ron Sims.
if all those threats don't get
things moving, Snohomish County will be sued by its neighbor to the
Sims and the King County Council on Wednesday chastised the Snohomish
Council and County Executive Aaron Reardon, claiming elected officials
here are creating roadblocks that could delay the opening of the plant.
"Regionalism requires the best in all of us," the King County letter reads. "Jurisdictions which receive the benefits of regional facilities should be willing to host their fair share of regional facilities, along with their attendant impacts, as long as they are reasonably mitigated." Both counties agree that King County won the right to put the $1.48 billion plant at Highway 9 and Highway 522 in the rural Maltby area. They're still arguing over how much oversight Snohomish County has over the permit process.
If Snohomish County doesn't cooperate, King County attorneys will push Gov. Christine Gregoire to strip away millions of dollars that Snohomish County gets from gasoline, sales, liquor and other taxes.
"Why is Ron (Sims) hellbent on building this on Highway 9 on top of seismic faults?" asked Jeff Sax, the Snohomish County councilman whose district includes the Brightwater site. "If it's that important to him, maybe he should be up here talking to us instead of writing us letters."
Sims apparently has forgotten that representative democracy requires that the Snohomish County Council have a say over building Brightwater, Sax said. Without that, people who will soon have a sewer treatment plant in their back yards would be left out of the process, he said. Snohomish County isn't going to be intimidated by Sims. "It's a shallow threat," Sax said.
Council Chairman Gary Nelson pointed to a recent court ruling that said Snohomish County has oversight over Brightwater. And the governor, an attorney, is unlikely to interpret the facts as King County has chosen to present them, Nelson said.
"Much of that is a fabrication and a distortion of what has been happening," Nelson said. "Gov. Gregoire is smarter than that." Reardon declined to comment Thursday until he'd had a chance to review the matter. Brightwater construction must start this year if it's going to open by 2010, said Kurt Triplett, Sims' chief of staff. That's when King County will reach capacity at its two existing sewage treatment plants.
"It's a high-stakes game, and we don't want to be here," Triplett said. There's no sense of urgency on Snohomish County's part, he said, so "we feel we're running out of options."
The sewer system, which takes sewage from south Snohomish County, already sends raw sewage into Lake Washington during heavy rains, he said. If that didn't happen, the sewage would back up into people's homes. King County will sue Snohomish County next week if the County Council doesn't indicate that it's willing to cooperate, Triplett said. There are several types of lawsuits King County could file, he said.
County also plans to challenge
two ordinances the Snohomish County Council adopted in April that
earthquake safety and odor control at sewer treatment plants, Triplett
Negotiations that would allow King County to start building the Brightwater sewage treatment plant in south Snohomish County will start July 26, officials from both counties have confirmed.
The agreement to sit down at the table marks a significant change in posture in the long-festering fight over what King County should have to pay to offset the impact of building the $1.48 billion plant at Highway 9 and Highway 522.
The agreement to start negotiations comes after Gov. Christine Gregoire said she would not get involved.
"I just talked to Aaron (Reardon) about it and Aaron said, 'Let us work it out,'" Gregoire said last week of a conversation she had with the Snohomish County executive. She said she would be hands-off "for now."
King County had asked the governor to impose financial sanctions on Snohomish County for allegedly working to prevent or delay the start of Brightwater construction.
As to negotiations, Snohomish County wants its neighbor to the south to pay $80 million to fix roads, build parks and make improvements that would offset building a 114-acre plant in the Maltby area. King County has offered to pay $50 million.
The two counties are also fighting over what kind of review to put Brightwater through. Snohomish County wants a public process that allows residents to weigh in with their concerns. King County wants the cost it pays now to guarantee that Snohomish County won't put more restrictions on it in the future.
Snohomish County Council President Gary Nelson, Councilman Dave Gossett and Deputy County Executive Gary Weikel will lead the Snohomish County negotiating team. Brightwater project director Christie True, County Executive Ron Sims' chief of staff, Kurt Triplett, and a County Council staff member will sit on the King County team.
Parties on both sides said they are eager to get Brightwater moving but remain wary of their opponent.
"We're willing to listen to what they have to offer," Nelson said, pointing out that it's King County that keeps filing lawsuits. "Let's face it, it's not Snohomish County that's causing any of the delays."
Triplett said King County has been forced to push the fight into court because Snohomish County has been dragging its feet when it knows construction on Brightwater needs to start this year if it's to open in 2010. That's when King County reportedly will run out of capacity at its two current sewage treatment plants.
"King County has been trying to work it out for six months," he said. "We're frustrated that Snohomish County hasn't seemed to be interested in working it out."
Nelson and Triplett agreed that the fight will be over how the sewage treatment plant is reviewed that creates the most sparks during negotiations, not money.
"The (debate) is far greater than $80 million in mitigation money," Nelson said of the cash Snohomish County wants its neighbor to pay. "The big issue is giving people the right to come forth to a hearing examiner and let their objections or support be known."
That means putting Brightwater through a conditional use permit process that would be overseen by a Snohomish County hearing examiner, Nelson. He said King County's proposal for a nonpublic review is unacceptable, especially since Snohomish and King counties hold similar hearings when other essential public facilities are proposed.
Triplett said King County won't agree to a conditional use permit because Snohomish County could leave the door open to future restrictions. He said King County is willing to pay to offset its impacts on Snohomish County, adding that doing so should allow it to get all of its building permits and the right to operate in perpetuity without new restrictions.
way or another we need to get
this built for both counties," Triplett said.
vote trial set to
begin: Republicans will seek to prove Gregoire owes win to
By GREGORY ROBERTS, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
Saturday, May 21, 2005
than six months after voters
marked their ballots for Christine Gregoire or Dino Rossi in the
race, the two candidates will start wrangling Monday in a Wenatchee
over just who did get more votes in the tightest statewide election in
The trial of Rossi's challenge to Gregoire's hair-breadth win will distill the arguments about illegal voters, mishandled ballots and a host of other errors and omissions that have fueled a fiercely partisan dispute almost without interruption since Election Day. Both sides have spent millions getting ready, and the secretary of state -- named as a defendant because he certified the election -- has laid out $250,000 in public money for outside legal help.
Gregoire and Rossi won't actually appear before Judge John Bridges in Chelan County Superior Court: Gregoire, a Democrat and former attorney general, is busy in Olympia running the state; Rossi, a Republican, is back on the Eastside, where he built a multimillion-dollar real estate empire before serving seven years in the state Senate.
For weeks after the Nov. 2 election, Rossi thought he would be the one measuring for drapes in the governor's mansion. He finished first in the initial tally by 261 votes. He was still ahead, by 42 votes, after a mandatory machine recount. But a final, hand recount, paid for by the Democrats as authorized by state law, gave Gregoire the win by 129 votes.
Now Rossi hopes another recalculation -- this time in court -- will again change the outcome.
Bridges will hear the case without a jury. But no matter what he decides after the two-week trial, his word almost certainly will not be the final one. Whoever loses can appeal to the state Supreme Court, and that likelihood will help shape the GOP's legal strategy. The task facing the Republicans is not an easy one.
In some states, it's enough to show that the number of illegal votes exceeds the margin of victory to get an election thrown out. But in Washington, state laws and previous state Supreme Court decisions set a different standard: The challenger to an election must prove that the winner owes victory to illegal votes.
Bridges has made it clear in pretrial rulings that he'll follow those precedents, frequently citing a Supreme Court decision in 1912 involving a judicial election in Douglas and Grant counties that was decided by five votes. That 1912 decision, Bridges said in a February hearing, also determined that with an improper vote "where there was no evidence to show for whom the elector voted, and because both candidates were innocent of wrongdoing, the vote must be treated between the parties as a legitimate vote."
Beyond that, Bridges said in February, "it may be problematical for petitioners (the Republicans) to ultimately prevail based on a theory or cause of illegal votes." And Bridges has said repeatedly that judges should be extremely reluctant to overturn election results. But for the GOP, problematical is not impossible. They've got a total of more than 2.8 million votes in the election to play with, and they only need change the bottom line by 130.
The main Republican attack rests on illegal votes such as ballots cast by felons barred by law from voting; provisional ballots, issued at polling places when the voters' status is unclear, that were included in counts before confirmation of eligibility; and ballots of voters who voted more than once. The Republicans have rounded up hundreds of votes they claim are illegal. Most come from King County, which gave Gregoire a whopping margin of more than 150,000 votes.
But that leaves the hurdle of "evidence to show for whom the elector voted."
The Republicans have rejected the idea of parading a bunch of voters, felonious and otherwise, to the witness stand to ask them for whom they cast their illegal ballots. Instead, they hope to show circumstantially who voted for whom, using statistical projections. It's the key to their case.
The idea is simple: Look at the overall percentage of support for Gregoire and Rossi in the precinct where an illegal vote was recorded, divvy up that illegal vote based on that percentage, and then subtract the result from the candidates' totals. The net effect, the Republicans say, is a swing to Rossi of 230 votes or so, giving him the win by about 100 votes.
To make the strategy work, the GOP needs to do two things: persuade Bridges that their statistical approach is legitimate; and prove the existence of enough illegal votes so that, when the formula is applied to those votes, it erases Gregoire's 129-vote lead. So the Republicans will call expert witnesses to buttress the validity of their statistical approach, and they'll invoke other elections cases from across the country in which the method has been applied.
The judge has set a stiff standard for documenting that a challenged vote is, in fact, illegal. So the Republicans have been scrambling madly to nail down as many illegal votes as possible, with the knowledge that, under their theory, illegal votes from Gregoire-leaning precincts will hurt her the most. With an eye on the Supreme Court, the GOP also will introduce evidence about a range of elections errors in King County, such as failing to follow state regulations for tracking absentee ballots and compounding that by providing misleading accounts of those ballots.
That "fubar" strategy -- from an acronym that, politely spelled out, means "fouled up beyond all recognition" -- probably won't succeed in Bridges' court because of the 1912 precedent.
Unlike Bridges, the justices of the Supreme Court have the latitude to revisit their predecessors' decisions -- but they can only consider evidence entered during the trial. The GOP may try to convince Bridges that the absentee-ballot mistake in King County demonstrates fraud, which would allow him to throw out the election without regard to who benefited from illegal votes. But the standard of proof for fraud requires the kind of detailed, specific evidence that the Republicans have not indicated they can provide.
With typical bombast, state GOP Chairman Chris Vance in March said Rossi had "a slam-dunk case." But he backed off that this week.
"I feel cautiously optimistic," Vance said. "I don't think it's a slam dunk. I'm not as certain as that."
Still, Vance said, "I would rather have our case than theirs."
For their part, the Democrats are playing defense, seeking to fend off the GOP assault on Gregoire's win. They have the advantage of watching the Republicans roll our their case first over four days, and then planning a counterattack. For certain, the Democrats will try to undermine the GOP proposal for allotting illegal votes based on statistical patterns. They may argue the approach isn't permitted under Washington state law, or that it just isn't convincing enough to overturn an election.
The Democrats likely will bring in experts to testify that even if the basic method is accepted, the precinct model is flawed because it doesn't take into account a voter's gender and other factors (most of the illegal felon voters are males, and males favored Rossi). So an important factor in the case will be whose experts turn out to be more persuasive with Bridges.
To counteract the Republicans' illegal votes, the Democrats have come up with their own lists of illegal votes -- most of them from counties won by Rossi. If Bridges accepts the statistical method, his verdict could well rest on which side gets more of its claimed illegal votes included in the formula -- which is why the Democrats have been scrambling as madly as the Republicans.
The Democrats have some other arrows in their quiver. They are expected to ask Bridges to look at hundreds of votes from King County that were never included in the tabulation because of what the Democrats say were errors by elections workers. Unlike the illegal votes, which can be determined only circumstantially, the uncounted ballots are still stored in the King County elections department, and they could be opened and counted by Bridges.
"I feel very confident," state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt said. "I believe that in the course of this trial, we are going to be able to make the case that Chris Gregoire should have received more votes than she was credited with after the election, and that any of the errors that took place harmed Christine Gregoire. They did not harm Dino Rossi."
If Bridges rules in Rossi's favor, it's not clear what the judge would order as a result. He could invalidate Gregoire's certificate of election, which would vacate the governor's office and pave the way for an new election as early as this fall. Or he could declare Rossi governor -- although Rossi has said he doesn't want to get the job that way and would act to set up a new election.
The Democrats would certainly appeal such a decision, and the Republicans likely would appeal a verdict in Gregoire's favor. The worst-case scenario for the GOP would be winning battles but losing the war: If Bridges accepts the precinct-based statistical method but its application still yields a Gregoire victory, Rossi's chances for a reversal by the Supreme Court dwindle.
To some extent, Vance said, Rossi has won already.
"The great fear of contesting an election is that you end up looking like a sore loser," Vance said. "That has not happened.
"There's no doubt that we have proven our case, in terms that everyone believes it was a mess," he said.
A recent opinion poll suggests he's right. Strategic Vision of Atlanta asked 800 Washington voters who they thought actually won the governor's race, and 57 percent said Rossi (with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points).
58 percent of those polled said
they were not in favor of a revote.
TVW, Washington state's public affairs network, will broadcast the trial in its entirety. Live streaming video and audio links are available at www.tvw.org/index.cfm.
As strange as ripping out natural grass to make way for the fake stuff might seem in the Evergreen State, Seattle parks and school officials have been doing just that in ballfields all over the city.
So far there haven't been many complaints at the 12 fields where grass already has been replaced by green-colored synthetic turf. But in the Loyal Heights neighborhood just north of Ballard, many residents are balking at plans to take away their grassy playfield.
The other day, for instance, Barbara Bash stood by the expansive grassy lawn that makes up the outfield of the Loyal Heights Playfield's two baseball fields. She fondly remembered when her oldest son, Thomas, started playing T-ball. Just as many little kids might do in the outfield, he sat down and began examining a flower.
Not many flowers grow in synthetic grass, she noted.
Jim Anderson, who lives across the street from the field and, like Bash, is involved in a group with the Web site www.noplasticgrass.com, said the sentiment for natural grass is particularly strong because Ballard has few parks.
"I don't know any family that says, 'Let's go lay around on the plastic turf today,' " Anderson said.
Officials with the city's Parks and Recreation Department and Seattle Public Schools say they have good reason for switching out their sports fields. Demand for the fields far outstrips the supply, they say, so by installing synthetic turf and better drainage, they are not only avoiding rainouts after wet weather turns the fields into mud, they're also making the fields usable for year-round sports such as soccer.
The parks department surveyed youth soccer organizations in 2000, asking how many hours they could use the fields. The organizations said they could use about 10,900 hours a year on city and school fields for soccer. But, illustrating the demand, youth soccer players got to use the fields for only 2,830 hours that year.
That made it important, parks spokeswoman Dewey Potter said, to get as much use out of the fields as possible.
And despite the opposition, not all residents are upset about the switch to turf. Chris Kline and Chris Adams recently played catch in Loyal Heights before their sons' Little League game -- a match pitting the team sponsored by the Weber Law legal firm against the team sponsored by the Ida Culver House retirement home.
Kline said his son's Weber Law team had already been rained out four times that season. The synthetic turf will have better drainage and while it won't spring flowers, it won't turn into mud either, he said.
Baseball might have been made to play on grass, he said, but at least on synthetic turf, they can play on those days when the field is still muddy after a rain.
In 2000, Seattle voters approved the $198.2 million Pro Parks Levy, which is paying for more than 100 parks projects throughout the city over eight years. The Loyal Heights project, which will include a variety of improvements at the playfield, will use $2.3 million of those levy funds.
Financially, Potter said the move to install synthetic turf is considered a wash because the savings in not having to tend to the grass fields will be eaten up by the cost of replacing the turf when it wears out in 10 to 15 years. That too has Loyal Heights residents worried that kids will be more prone to get hurt on synthetic turf than natural grass. They're concerned that playing on worn-down synthetic turf would only increase the risk.
Dr. John O'Kane, a University of Washington assistant professor of sports medicine and medical coordinator for the Huskies sports program, said synthetic turf is softer than earlier versions of Astroturf. But he said it's difficult to say whether turf is more dangerous than grass.
O'Kane, who's not involved in the debate, said he knows of no studies comparing the safety of synthetic turf versus grass.
At Woodland Park's Field #1, the synthetic turf is not greener than at a natural park. The turf was popular among the 14- to 16-year-olds on Senior League Team 2 as they prepared to play their rivals, Senior League Team 1.
catcher, Niko Fernandez, 14,
said the games no longer get rained out as often. Centerfielder Conor
14, said, "It's easier to slide. No rocks." And 16-year-old first
Sean Eagan noted an important factor that would be appreciated by
who's ever been hit in the face or anywhere else by a ball ricocheting
off a pebble. "No bad bounces."
TURF, TURF EVERYWHERE
The city of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools have put in synthetic turf at 12 ballfields: Bobby Morris Playfield on Capitol Hill; McGilvra Elementary School in Madison Park; Interbay Playfield; Queen Anne Bowl; Rogers Park; Jane Adams Elementary School in Ballard; Nathan Hale Playfield in North Seattle; Ingraham High School Playfield; Lower Woodland Playfield #1 near Green Lake; Genesee Playfield in Southeast Seattle; Rainier Beach Playfield and Chief Sealth High School in West Seattle.
In addition to the Loyal Heights Playfield, these fields are scheduled to get synthetic turf: Garfield High School in the Central Area; Magnusson Park's two new baseball fields, as well as its new rugby field and a separate soccer field; and the Georgetown Playfield.
Other fields are targeted as well, although money for the projects hasn't been budgeted yet. When all the work is done, about 20 of the 82 public sports fields in the city will be made of synthetic turf.
first meeting of a project advisory
team for the Loyal Heights Playfield project is set for 7 p.m. June 1
the Loyal Heights Community Center, 2101 N.W. 77th St. A second meeting
is scheduled for June 22 at the same time and place. The advisory team
will provide guidance to Seattle Parks and Recreation staff and report
back to the community as the park design progresses. The meetings are
to the public. Information: 206-684-7033 or email@example.com