More property in the works for Freeland sewer project

The Freeland Water & Sewer District is close to acquiring another piece of property for its future sewer system.

Water district commission chairman Rocky Knickerbocker said Saturday that the district has agreed on a price for 10 acres to be used for a future sewage treatment plant.

The parcel is the same one earmarked for that purpose in the district’s comprehensive plan, he said.

The owner has agreed to sell the property, off Bush Point Road between Highway 525 and Mutiny Bay Road, for $275,000, Knickerbocker said. Money for the purchase will come from a grant from the state Department of Ecology.

On Dec. 30, the district closed on an 80-acre piece of property formerly owned by the Trillium Corporation and, more recently, by Dogwood Whidbey Development, an Arlington company that had hoped to build a planned residential development called the Estates at Whidbey.

The company defaulted on its loans for the land, however, and the property was purchased by Shoreline Bank at auction.

The sale price for the Freeland district is $560,000, which will be drawn from $2.5 million in Island County sales-tax revenues set aside last month for the Freeland sewer project as part of a rural development program.

The property would be used for an outfall for the sewer system.

Knickerbocker said the next step is to conduct design studies to get the project shovel-ready and prepared to go out for bids once more funds are available.

Sewer system supporters hope to acquire a $30 million grant for the project from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The water district has worked for years to create a sewer system that would serve Freeland’s commercial core, the center of economic activity on the South End.

The $38 million project has been stalled over the years, however, by extensive planning, legal wrangling and a quest for funding.

The project is envisioned in multiple phases. The first would be the commercial core, for an estimated $17 million.

Gary Hess, district engineer, said Monday that construction on the project could begin within two years, once funding is set.

Hess said the Bush Road treatment plant would be installed in a building about the size of a large house. He said the water reclamation facility would have no outdoor ponds, and would be designed to be odor-free.

“We’re plugging along, trying to get this thing going,” Hess said. “Nothing has been smooth on this project so far.”

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