Support for previously vetted wastewater project
May 26, 2022
To the Editor,
In the May 19th online edition of the Waitsburg Times, the article titled “Dayton wastewater treatment project stalled again” included three letters that need to be shared to a wider audience. The first was from Cynthia Wall-Fuller, lately of the Washington Department of Ecology, now at the Washington Department of Commerce, to Dayton Mayor Zac Weatherford and the Dayton City Council.
There’s a lot to say about the other two letters, but this first one is the one that needs to be addressed most urgently. In it, she warns the city that it verges on losing the promised funding for the purchase of land to build a wastewater project on. It seems that because of the innovative nature of the proposed wetlands plan, the DOE has offered the city an unusually generous deal to fund the purchase of land for the project. That deal is now in danger because council members Anderson, Aukerman, and Dieu seem to be set on derailing the wetlands project in favor of a land-use system that, instead of returning water to the river, would use it to irrigate about 80 acres of non-consumable crops.
Because Ecology believes the wetlands system will have beneficial environmental impact beyond our region, they have offered the city a pretty remarkable deal. They’ve awarded nearly $1-million of funding for both the purchase and the design phase of the wetlands project, and loan forgiveness of 50%, meaning that the city would only have to pay back $495,000. They have additionally allowed the city to delay starting the loan repayment until after the design phase is completed.
However, the deadline of the design deliverable is the end of this year. The City can apply for two extensions, bringing the absolute, final deadline for the final project design to the end of 2024.
The city has spent the last two years and $200K investigating the feasibility of the wetlands project. It was on the verge of moving on to the design phase and on track to meet the funding deadline. Now, because the three new Council Members seem intent on reinventing the wheel, the project is so far off track that Wall-Fuller is recommending the city “close the current design loan and de-obligate the remaining funds.”
She suggests the city can reapply for another design loan. But she reminds the city that Ecology won’t likely offer the same deal for land purchase for another type of project.