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Cascadia sewer service area causes the city some indigestion

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By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

The politics and policy surrounding the sewer services in the south Plateau has become a hot topic around Bonney Lake.

The issue came up at an April 10 workshop and the Rubik's Cube of how to fit the pieces together is looking quite puzzling and contentious.

At the meeting, the central question came up during open discussion whether Pierce County is going to provide sewer services to Cascadia, a 6,500 housing development located on the south Plateau.

Mayor Neil Johnson and Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman received information that the county was about to take over the service for the development.

Sewer services for Cascadia was to be provided by the city of Orting and the city has been less than thrilled at the prospect.

In 2005, Orting and Cascadia squared off in a lawsuit in Pierce County Superior Court over the sewer agreement. Judge Bryan Chushcoff ruled Cascadia is in Orting's sewer service area, but a new agreement between the parties was necessary.

Chuck Lappenbusch, senior vice president of Cascadia, said, “Orting approached Pierce County and there have been many discussions with many different options. Pierce County appears to be favorable to taking over Cascadia sewer services. Negotiations are taking place as we speak. All parties are in consensus, but it takes time to get a written agreement.”

Lappenbusch said there are two options on the table concerning Cascadia. The first is to bore under the Carbon River and connect to Orting's plant and the other is to construct a sewer membrane bioreactor plant on the south Plateau.

Cascadia engineers encountered drilling problems in December when trying to bore under the Carbon River, which would allow them to connect to Orting's sewer plant.

According to Lappenbusch, the engineering problems have been solved and boring under the river is still a workable option.

“All options are on the table and it's important people don't jump to conclusions,” Lappenbusch said. “Cascadia is very pleased with the effort and work from all the jurisdictions.”

Membrane plants use a recently-developed sewer treatment technology and the city of Bonney Lake is hoping a plant can be built that will serve the entire south Plateau.

Johnson said the city is the sewer service provider for the entire south Plateau area except for Cascadia. The city is taking the position there should be one provider in the area, not two.

“We've let all the parties know we are the service provider in the area and want to provide sewer services for the entire area,” Johnson said. “We don't want two or more providers.”

Johnson said there would be about 20,000 connections over the next 20 years in the area including Cascadia, Plateau 465 with about 3,000 homes planned and Falling Water with more than 1,000 homes, Prairie Ridge and Rhododendron Park.”

The move for the county to provide the service to Cascadia is coming from County Executive John Ladenburg's office, but the issue will likely go before the County Council according to County Councilman Shawn Bunney.

“If the county has the ability I don't see why the county should not step up,” Bunney said. “But we need to listen to all parties. This conversation has not been fully developed.”

Bunney said some of the issues to be considered will be which agency has the technical capability to provide the service, what the people living in the area want and who should be making sewer and land use decision in the area.

Members of the City Council see a membrane plant as a way to solve sewer service problems in the area and around the city. Members believe the plant could be built with fees from the developers in the area.

“There is so much synergy to us doing sewer service in that area,” Swatman said.

Councilman Mark Hamilton has previously suggested the city bring the south Plateau region, including Cascadia into the city's urban growth area with an eye towards annexation.

“If Patrick (Kuo), God bless him, builds Cascadia and it's successful, that's wonderful,” Hamilton said. “But if it fails we need to protect this city.”

Hamilton said Ladenburg should be contacted and told, “We want this (sewer service agreement) to stop. We want that area.... Once it's a signed agreement (with the county) it's gone forever.”

Councilman Dave King said he was concerned, “there is an agenda being pressed we are not privy to.”

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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