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Court ruling favors Freeland Water District

The Superior Court of Thurston County has sided with Island County officials in the battle over who should build a new sewer system in Freeland.

The court ruled that Main Street Sewer District would not offer sewer service to a large enough portion of Freeland to be a viable alternative to the Freeland Water District’s sewer plan.

During a hearing Friday, Judge Gary Tabor upheld the state Department of Health’s decision to issue a certificate of necessity to the Freeland Water District to construct and operate a sewer system.

The decision was a setback for Main Street Sewer District officials, who wanted to expand the Main Street sewer system to serve a large chunk of downtown Freeland.

But after a 90-minute hearing, the judge said Main Street ‘s expansion plan was not enough because it would serve only 20 percent of Freeland’s entire proposed sewer area.

Main Street had sued the state Department of Health and Department of Ecology over its decision to issue “certificates of necessity.” The Freeland Water District needs the certificates to be able to legally provide wastewater treatment services.

Freeland Water District representatives said the question before the court was clear, and so was the decision.

“In the opinion of the court, 20 percent is not a substantial portion of the district,” said Allen Hendricks, an Edmonds attorney representing the Freeland Water District.

The dispute over what particular sewer system will serve the South End’s commercial center has stretched on for months. Still, the judge said that the Main Street proposal was still lacking in details.

Tabor told the attorneys that he had read all 1,200 pages of documents, and said that Main Street failed to file construction documents with a proposed timeline for construction.

They also didn’t provide annexation documents for the customers they hoped to serve. Tabor said.

Main Street has 30 days to appeal the decision after it has been entered into the record.

The next hurdle for Main Street is a hearing before the state Pollution Control Board. That hearing is set for three days, July 17, 18 and 19, and Main Street will again face a considerable challenge in court. As in the Thurston County case, the state agencies in the case will be defended by the state Attorney General’s Office.

No one from Main Street Sewer District was available for comment until after press time.

Island County Commissioners picked the Freeland Water District to serve Freeland with a sewer system last month instead of the Main Street Sewer District.

County commissioners said the Freeland Water District plan is most appropriate for Freeland. The commissioners noted that Main Street could only serve the area until 2015, when the system would reach 85 percent of its capacity. Then another large new system would need to be constructed.

Main Street then filed a lawsuit against the county and the Freeland Water District asking for a permanent injunction that would prohibit the Freeland Water District from taking any further actions to construct a sewer system until the district obtain final written approval from the state.

The Main Street system currently serves the Village at Maple Ridge, a senior condominium complex in Freeland.

Erl Bangston, the developer of the Main Street Sewer System, which serves the senior condominiums, said earlier that the Main Street proposal was an expandable system that could serve the Freeland business district.

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