Consider the facts and vote for water infrastructure bond

Editor,

I am responding to the letter from Mr. Moses of Edgecliff Drive (10/8/2019) in Langley and wish to provide additional facts and details that should provide a more complete picture regarding the “Water Management System Improvement Bond.” Specifically, not passing the bond means forfeiture of the $3M grant from the county, leaving the residents of Langley to shoulder 100% of the financial burden of an ailing infrastructure system for water, sewer, and storm water.

First, the aging infrastructure and deterioration of the city’s water supply delivery system is failing more frequently. Recent data obtained from the City of Langley show a string of consecutive failures in the water lines. For example, from January-February 2018, of the 8.3 million gallons of drinking water provided, there was a 39% loss (3.3 million gallons), meaning only 61% of it arrived at the intended destinations. In September and October of 2018, additional deterioration of the water lines resulted in a 22.4% loss (2.0 million gallons lost). In November-December 2018, further problems resulted in a 53% loss of water (~5.3 million gallons of drinking water lost.) January-February 2019 saw the loss rates increase to 59% with over 8 million gallons of drinking water lost. Some repairs were made bringing the losses down to 52% with a loss of ~5.7 million gallons. The series of calamities is continuously addressed with a series of emergency repairs which is very expensive. Replacing and upgrading this patchwork of deteriorating infrastructure will help stop this downward spiral and help stabilize water utility rates.

Addressing the other concern of Mr. Moses is the question as to why the city did not pursue smaller grants to simply fix just those items that are broken instead of trying to provide East Langley with a major sewer expansion project.

The City secures grants as they become aware of the opportunities. It is a laborious process to make a successful grant application. The mayor saw an opportunity to apply for a Rural County Development Grant at the time Langley’s Infrastructure project was created to address the systemic problems of utility system issues. These issues include wasting great quantities of water, leakage of storm water into the sewer systems, depletion of waste water treatment plant capacity, and standing water ponds in parts of the city due to inadequate storm water management. This grant is restricted to new utility functions, not repairing old ones. The city applied for and won a $3M grant as part of the $7M infrastructure plan, conditional on the city raising the rest of the money. Hence the $4M Bond. The grant is to be used for new storm water control throughout the city, for detailed new engineering supporting the entire infrastructure plan, and to extend sewer into East Langley; a section of the city that long ago paid its share of the sewer treatment plant but has never had access.

Mr. Moses points out the concern that many neighborhood residents of Edgecliff have regarding the increased burden on the bluff due to an increase in housing density.

The bond vote is NOT a zoning vote. Contrary to the assertions, nothing in the bond or extending the sewer forces a rezoning to higher density, nor does it force hooking up if the property has a satisfactory septic system. It does allow additional auxiliary dwelling unit installation flexibility, and an owner of a large lot may if they wish petition to subdivide. Some portions of the East Langley neighborhood are in favor of sewer access for a variety of reasons. Discussions with the city for over the past year and a half have included both an Edgecliff representative, myself, and a Furman/Decker representative.

This matter also raises another point regarding the current burden on the Edgecliff bluff. With little to no storm water management currently in place in East Langley, it leaves residents to try and figure out how to manage storm water runoff. Some residents have individually spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to route storm water through French drains, over and down bluffs, and a number of other measures. Yet, despite the heroic attempts, the large slides continue to occur along the bluff. A unified, large scale approach, such as installing storm water management through tight lining and curbs would help mitigate much of the surface water issues, thereby, helping to reduce the stress on the Edgecliff bluff. It would not stop the bluff erosion, but it is a huge step in the right direction. The implementation of storm water runoff for Furman, Decker, and Edgecliff is part of the Water Management System Bond and Grant funding.

Mr. Moses goes on to state the installation of sewers into East Langley will take on of the most affordable housing areas in Langley, e.g. along Decker and Furman, and impose a significant economic burden on the homeowner… ‘So long affordable housing.’

Contrary to the statement, the introduction of sewer lines along Decker and Furman provides residents with an excellent option in the event of a septic field failure, of which the cost of such an event is expensive, regardless. There are many empty lots on Decker and Furman, which could serve as potential housing sites. A sewer line would increase the probability of more homes being built. Housing prices are kept low by sufficient availability. Limiting the availability of houses only drives up the costs of houses, thereby, rendering them unaffordable.

This bond measure stands to benefit ALL of the residents of Langley. If the bond is approved, 40% of the water system infrastructure is covered by the County with a $3 million dollar grant. If the bond is NOT approved, we, the citizens of Langley will NOT receive any of the grant AND we will be left to shoulder the burden of a deteriorating infrastructure that is in need of costly repairs. The repairs will be made through ever increasing water utility rates. The most recent proposal to the Langley City Council to deal with these problems is a 43% increase in water utility rates starting next year in 2020. (Reference: CITY OF LANGLEY: 2018 WATER SYSTEM PLAN, Presentation to City of Langley City Council, October 7, 2019). In a relatively short period of time, the water utility rates will far outstrip the modest levy (~$20/month for $400,000 assessed property value). However, newer infrastructure will stabilize water utility rate increases.

A tremendous amount of thought, time, and effort has been invested by Langley residents, the mayor, city council members, and volunteers with the intent of providing an effective, long term, affordable solution that serves our community. The Water Management System Improvement Bond provides critical repairs, upgrades, and improvements city wide for the benefit of all Langley residents. It addresses the most urgent needs while providing options for many residents.

I urge residents of Langley to consider the facts and data when deciding whether or not to vote for the Water Management System Improvement Bond.

Additional details can be found on the City of Langley’s website:

https://www.langleywa.org/2019%20BOND%20Fact%20Sheet_RP.pdf

Jim Dobberfuhl

Langley

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