Sewer plan criticized for going out of bounds

Send it back for a re-write.

That’s what a group of Clinton residents told the Board of Island County Commissioners to do with Clinton’s Comprehensive Sewer Plan. During the commissioner’s regular weekly meeting Nov.17, a dozen Clinton-area residents voiced concern about the boundaries of the plan, which is essentially a study of how sewers might be built into the unincorporated South Whidbey community.

At the meeting, the group contended that the study area significantly exceeds the legal boundaries for a sewer system as designated in Island County’s comprehensive plan. Yet in spite of that, the plan has been given conditional approval by the county commissioners.

David Braathen of Clinton and several other Clinton residents told the commissioners at the meeting in Coupeville that as drawn, the boundaries for the proposed system extend into rural areas where density is one dwelling per five acres and where there is no documentation of any health issues related to septic systems.

Braathen said the plan should be kept within the boundaries of the Clinton RAID, or rural area of intense development, where density is one dwelling per acre or greater.

For the purpose of the study, the boundaries for a possible sewer district were set to include an estimated 500 residents within to the Clinton Water District. The water district currently has about water 700 hookups.

According to Braathen, the state’s Growth Management Act — the law upon which the county’s comprehensive plan is based — prohibits extending sewers to rural areas unless a health problem exists that would be corrected by sewers. He said he hoped the county commissioners would return the plan to the Clinton Water District and the engineers “so they can re-write the plan to comply with the law.”

Even so, the commissioners gave the plan a conditional approval subject to a page of comments from the county’s public works department. The one-page review list identifies several wells and reservoirs not in the original study, identifies impacts on the area’s aquifer, and requires a check with Washington State Ferry’s septic systems.

Verbally, the commissioners passed on giving any directives to the Clinton Water District as to how it manages its sewer planning. County Commissioner Mike Shelton advised Clinton residents with any issues about the actual plan to direct their comments to the water district.

“They tried to be inclusive by getting residents involved in the decision making process all the way along,” he said. “The Clinton Water District board — all elected officials — asked for the sewer plan,” Shelton said. “The (county) commissioners did not promote, encourage or discourage it.”

However, noting that sewers are an element of urban growth, Shelton said, “the state’s Growth Management Act is quite specific about not extending growth beyond the RAID. Zoning in or out of the RAID area will not change.”

The sewer plan has thus far not attracted a popular support movement among Clinton residents. Thus far, only water district officials have been strong advocates of writing the plan, which comes at a cost of $60,000, $15,000 of which was paid by the district.

District officials, including water district manager Mike Helland, have repeatedly assured water customers that no sewers will be built without their majority approval.

Clinton is South Whidbey’s third-largest urban area, and is not the only one making plans for sewers. A Freeland planning committee with the Freeland Water District is in the final stages of completing a comprehensive sewer plan.

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