A proposed shopping center development in the Pullman-Moscow Highway corridor is bringing to a head long-standing questions about the effects of growth on water resources on the Palouse.In politics, this is what is known as "home cooking". Pullman and Moscow city governments are looking with envious eyes upon what will be by far and away the largest retail development in the history of the Palouse. They know whose ox is going to get gored.
The Hawkins Companies submitted an application to Whitman County in January to build a shopping complex along the highway just west of the Idaho state line. At 714,000 square feet, the development would be seven times as large as the Wheatland Mall in Pullman and about twice the size of the Palouse Mall in Moscow, Planning Director Pete Dickinson said.
The Pullman City Council focused on the proposed development at its Tuesday night meeting after it learned of the county’s Feb. 1 preliminary approval of the developer’s State Environmental Policy Act checklist.
The cities of Pullman and Moscow intend to submit comments about the water source for the development and its submitted stormwater drainage design. The cities also are concerned about how public services such as police and fire might be affected, since they might respond outside of their jurisdictions in emergencies.
Neither city has any official role in the SEPA process or any power to make a decision about the project. However, like any member of the public, the cities can comment on the project and ask the county to address questions about the environmental issues.
A key question is whether the developers will draw water from the shallow Wanapum aquifer or the deeper Grand Ronde aquifer. The developer plans to use on-site wells as a water source, rather than extending public utilities either from Pullman or Moscow, Whitman County Engineer Mark Storey said in a telephone interview today.
Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney confirmed today the developer has not approached Moscow about providing water or sewer service.
The water should come from the Wanapum aquifer to minimize impacts on the two cities’ water supplies, Pullman Public Works Director Mark Workman said at Tuesday’s council meeting. The city of Pullman draws its entire water supply from the Grand Ronde aquifer. Moscow gets about 70 percent of its water from the Grand Ronde and 30 percent from the Wanapum, Workman said.
The Wanapum aquifer is recharged from surface water, Larry Kirkland said in a telephone interview today. Kirkland is the technical advisor and hydrologist for the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee, a coalition formed to monitor water issues on the Palouse.
The Grand Ronde gets some recharge, but the mechanism is unclear, Kirkland said.
There may be some misunderstanding about how the proposed shopping center will use water, Storey said.
“Part of the issue is people assuming the applicant is looking for a new water right,” Storey said. “New water rights have not been released in Whitman County in years and years.”
The Hawkins Companies plans to transfer an existing water right to the shopping center, Storey said. But they have not said which aquifer that water right might come from. If they transfer a water right from the Wanapum aquifer, that water right would continue to be pumped from the Wanapum. The same is true for a water right from the Grand Ronde, Storey said.
The developer could not be reached for comment.
Workman also raised questions about the developer’s design for stormwater drainage, suggesting the swales outlined in the environmental checklist will be ineffective because water does not percolate down through the soils on the Palouse. Instead, water sits in the ground or runs off into streams. That would be Paradise Creek in the case of this development.
The county is addressing stormwater drainage with the Hawkins Companies, asking it to submit a design in line with the standards contained in the Eastern Washington Storm Water Manual. This manual, recently published by the Washington State Department of Ecology, demands a stricter standard, Storey said.
Also, the developer will incorporate detention ponds into its stormwater system, allowing water to slowly be released into the natural drainage.
Storey plans to consult with Workman about the developer’s stormwater design as the project moves forward. “We want to make this match what the city of Pullman is doing as closely as possible,” he said.
A 14-day public comment period expires at 4 p.m. Thursday. Public comments can be submitted in person to the Whitman County Planning Department, Att: Mark Bordsen, at the Public Service Building, 310 N. Main St., Colfax, or by mail to P.O. Box 430, Colfax, WA 99111. Written comments must be signed. Comments will not be accepted by e-mail.
Once the comment period expires, Whitman County Planning Director Mark Bordsen will evaluate the comments and issue a final determination on the environmental checklist. Members of the public then will have 10 days to appeal the final determination.
Moscow, with its newly-installed ultra-leftist, anti-growth city government, stands to lose the most as new development and tax dollars will migrate just a few feet over the border into Washington. The elitist "smart growthers" over there are about to get a really hard dose of "Real World 101". This is a little Instant Karma for the retail dominance Moscow has enjoyed for the past few decades. But I don't see how they have a say in this process at all, even as a member of the "public".
Pullman has some legitimate concerns with regards to fire and police service. However, other Pullman opposition to the development makes me uncomfortable, as the Whitman County Commissioners have been strong supporters of us getting a Wal-Mart.
As a Pullman resident, I have always had mixed feelings about this new shopping center . It will not help our tax base and in fact will continue to perpetuate the leakage of dollars away from Pullman and towards Moscow. I would much rather see the new development happen inside city limits. Contrary to TV Rerun's characterizations of me, I am not a "Wal-Mart promoter" but a "Pullman promoter". I'm going to be out banging the gong for any company that will bring in nearly a million dollars a year in tax revenue, revitalize local business, and stop the hemorrhaging of dollars outside of town.
Outside of Pullman though, Whitman County is struggling. This would be a tremendous boost to the county's economy. They deserve it.
Pullman and Moscow only have themselves to blame. For years, both cities have had reputations for being business-unfriendly and very NIMBYish. More recently, we have PARD and the No Super Wal-Mart group to blame for the bad juju. Does anyone question why the Hawkins Companies would take their chances with wells, septic tanks, and limited infrastructure versus the year-and-a-half long circus of deadbeat shoppers, dead kids and deer testicles that Wal-Mart has endured in Pullman and now starting in Moscow as well? Remember, this new complex will be THREE times larger than a Supercenter. Free speech is not free of consequences. Other businesses constantly watch what goes on here. PARD has acted incredibly irresponsibly and done untold harm to Pullman's economic future. That is why it is imperative that the people of Pullman rise up in anger and demand that PARD end their frivilous appeals. People in Moscow are going to have to take back their city as well.
It's interesting to see that, in comparison with this development, the City of Pullman and Wal-Mart did a much better job on the stormwater runoff plan for the proposed Supercenter. If PARD doesn't appeal the SEPA approval of this new shopping center, their hypocrisy will be complete. The problem for PARD, however, is that the UFCW is not interested in fighting Lowe's and whoever else goes in there, only Wal-Mart. There'll be no union money for attorneys, traffic engineers, or (almost) flying in expert witnesses, so there'll be no appeal.
One solution to the quandary might be some sort of revenue sharing agreement between Whitman County and Pullman, as originally proposed for water and sewer, in return for police and fire service. The extension of water and sewer services from Pullman could also still be a future possibility. Who knows, annexation may even lay down the road, although it's hard to imagine Whitman County voluntarily giving up the deed to such a gold mine.
Once the sales tax coffers get full, Whitman County should consider the construction of branch Fire District and Sheriff's Office stations near the development, along with the purchasing of new equipment and the hiring of additional emergency personnel. Retail growth, unlike housing growth, pays for itself.
I don't see Moscow in the picture at all with their current administration.