Freeland boosters have fingers crossed for federal sewer funds

The spigot’s beginning to flow, and boosters of Freeland’s proposed sewer system are expecting to hear soon if the project will receive federal stimulus funds.

“Everything’s coming down so fast,” said Chet Ross, president of the Freeland Chamber of Commerce. “We’re all on pins and needles.”

Stimulus money from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has begun to reach the state level.

Last week, the state departments of Transportation and Health announced a list of projects that will receive federal funds.

Ross said sewer proponents asked the state Department of Ecology for $6.8 million in federal funds for the first phase of the system, which would serve the downtown core.

Ecology has yet to announce how much it has to distribute, and which local projects would benefit.

When the stimulus was first announced, Freeland boosters asked Sen. Patty Murray to push for $30 million for sewers, which would be enough to finish four of the five phases of the project, providing sewers to almost every segment included in the Freeland Sub Area Plan.

The first phase of the project is projected to cost $15 million, Ross said.

While sewers aren’t a prerequisite for cityhood, another goal of many in the community, a sewer plan that can be implemented “in a reasonable amount of time” is required, he said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced this week that she has targeted 138 transportation projects in the state to receive $551 million in stimulus money.

That includes more than $1.5 million for two Island County projects.

Most of the funds will be spent to widen Ault Field Road and add another lane between Oak Harbor Road and Goldie Road. The county will also get $53,329 to make a map identifying bicycle touring routes on both Whidbey and Camano islands. The funds would also be used to improve shoulders along approximately 1,400 feet of Crescent Harbor Road in front of Crescent Harbor Elementary School, and put up signs from Deception Pass Bridge to the city of Oak Harbor marking a bike route.

Gregoire also approved funding for 27 Department of Health water projects in 16 counties, including two projects in Island County that will receive a total of $49,500 for arsenic treatment and filtration upgrades for the Patton’s Retreat Water Association and the Woodglen water system, both in Oak Harbor.

The state received 347 applications for water projects totaling nearly $416 million, which is 10 times as much as the total available funding, officials said.

Washington expects to receive more than $4.5 billion from the federal stimulus package that will be used to modernize infrastructure, enhance energy independence, expand educational opportunities, increase access to healthcare and provide tax relief.

The White House estimates the package will sustain or create nearly 75,000 jobs in the state.

To date, the state has distributed approximately $177 million, most in Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage funding.

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