A regional sewer partnership involving Clark County, Clark Regional Wastewater District and the cities of Battle Ground and Ridgefield is beginning to take shape.
On April 17, 2012, the Board of County Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that lays the groundwork for creating a regional entity under Washington law during the next four months.
Battle Ground, Ridgefield and Clark Regional Wastewater District had earlier approved the MOU. A board of directors, consisting of Clark County Commissioner Tom Mielke, Clark Regional Wastewater District Commissioner Neil Kimsey, Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow and Battle Ground Mayor Lisa Walters, will guide the proposed regional alliance forward.
The board, meeting on May 18, 2012, agreed that the proposed partnership should be called the Discovery Clean Water Alliance. The name reflect Lewis and Clark’s “Corps of Discovery” Expedition that first explored the area more than 200 years ago, as well as the potential for sewer service to open up new employment lands for economic development and job creation.
The partnership also is projected to have economic benefits for the Hazel Dell-Salmon Creek area. To encourage economic development, sewer connection charges for Hazel Dell-Salmon Creek developments will drop by 20 to 30 percent, largely though restructuring existing debt in the current low interest rate environment. Although there will be small increases in bimonthly rates during early years (roughly at the rate of inflation), rates are projected to be reduced by 5 to 10 percent in 10 to 15 years, should development occur as expected.
If the alliance is created, the four partners eventually would combine their existing regional assets, such as sewage treatment plants. Each partner would pay for its proportional share of operating and maintenance costs based on its sewage flow.
Sewage treatment plants
Clark County Commissioners have indicated they will have more discussion before agreeing to transfer the county-owned Salmon Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, which treats sewage from Clark Regional Wastewater District and the City of Battle Ground today and would also serve Ridgefield in the future.
Under the envisioned partnership, the County would continue to operate the Salmon Creek plant, along with its pump stations and regional interceptor sewer lines, for a five-year period that likely would not begin until 2014. Plant employees would remain County employees during this five-year period.
Similarly, the City of Ridgefield would continue to operate its treatment plant during this initial period while Clark Regional Wastewater District would take the administrative lead for the alliance.
The regional partnership eventually would decide if it wants to continue contracting with the different governments or have employees transferred so the alliance would have its own staff. The county expects to have a transition agreement to ensure Public Works employees would go to work for the alliance, assuming that it does not want to continue contracting with the county to operate the treatment plant.