1. It appears the Department of Ecology may screw Whitman County on stormwater the way they screwed Pullman. I'd love to know where Ecology gets its baseline data on flow in Paradise Creek from. That creek would run dry in the summer if not for the effluent from Moscow's sewage treatment plant. But Ecology apparently wants gallon for gallon replaced and treated in Paradise Creek from Hawkins stormwater catchment basins. This could reportedly be a deal-breaker for the Hawkins Companies, who have thus far been more patient than anyone could have expected. Whitman County might have to call in some favors in Olympia to get this corrected. The next week will tell. Let's pray Hawkins doesn't back out.
2. King Solomon can vow to fight on all he wants, but I have been told by informed sources that the Washington State Attorney General has written a letter that says out-of-state entities cannot appeal Department of Ecology decisions. The Sierra Club is one of the protestors, and being a national organization, could possibly appeal. Solomon could also use some dupes in Washington, such as CELP and Scotty Cornelius, I suppose. But that won't stop construction. Only someone immediately affected by water withdrawals can do that. At worst, there would be an appeal that would be heard when the mall was almost completed, like with the WSU golf course. I especially like how the primadonna proclaims that Moscow will "likely" file an appeal and in the very next paragraph and in the very next paragraph Linda Pall says Moscow is done with appeals. Ouch!! Why doesn't the King just run for office himself? Oh wait, he did, and the voters of Latah County kicked his ass out of office.
3. It looks like the liberal junta in Moscow, facing a tough reelection battle next month, is giving up on the Cold War with Whitman County (for now.) Councilwoman Linda Pall offered up an olive branch the way Councilman Aaron Ament did last week.
State only approves three of four proposed water-right transfers requested by Boise-based development company
The Washington State Department of Ecology's decision to approve three of four water-right transfers requested by Hawkins Companies has Whitman County officials concerned the plans for a 700,000-square-foot shopping facility on the Pullman-Moscow Highway will fall through.
Whitman County Commissioner Jerry Finch said without the approval of all four water rights, the development may be stalled or scrapped altogether.
"Obviously, my initial response is I am disappointed with the ruling," Finch said. "We need all four pieces for the jigsaw puzzle to work."
According to an Ecology news release issued Monday, the department affirmed the Whitman County Water Conservancy Board's approval of the water-right transfers proposed from two wells north of Pullman, along with the transfer of water from a well three miles north of LaCrosse to the city of Colton.
However, Ecology reversed the water conservancy board's decision to approve a surface-water diversion from the South Fork of the Palouse River because the required plan to "mitigate," or make up for, impacts to Paradise Creek is inadequate, according to the release.
It's unclear how the decision affects Hawkins' plans to build the Lowe's-anchored shopping facility in Whitman County, just across the state line from Idaho. Jeff DeVoe, spokesman for the Boise-based development company, said today Hawkins plans to release a written statement on Ecology's decision. He declined further comment.
Finch said he had been confident Ecology would approve all four transfers considering the thorough and complete job done by the county's conservancy board.
He said the county will have to wait on Hawkins to make the next move. It can either appeal the decision, scale back its plans or cancel the project.
"It is up to Hawkins now," Finch said. "I think we can work through it, but I don't know if Hawkins will want to pursue it or if they will decide their energy can be used best elsewhere."
Keith Stoffel, a section manager at Ecology, wrote in a ruling letter to Hawkins that the diversion was denied because of issues with wastewater and the conservancy board's decision to allow year-round use in "unavoidable circumstances," which "would negatively impact Paradise Creek."
Hawkins planned only to use the South Fork of the Palouse River water right from January to May and from September to December, unless circumstances required the use of the water right from June to August.
Ecology's decisions can be appealed to the state's Pollution Control Hearings Board within 30 days.
Mark Solomon, a local activist, said conservation groups and Moscow will review the decisions and "likely" file an appeal if Hawkins elects to move forward with the development. Solomon and the city of Moscow filed protests with the conservancy board and Ecology in April over the proposed water-rights transfers.
"I think it is highly likely the protest groups will appeal the failure of Ecology to look at the determination," Solomon said today.
Solomon said the appeal process can be lengthy and costly, but the groups will continue to fight the proposed development because of its effect on the area's water supply.
"There's always a (monetary) limit, but we will do what we can to the best of our abilities," Solomon said.
Moscow City Councilwoman Linda Pall indicated the city had exhausted its resources and was more willing to accept the results.
"It sounds like it's a done deal," she said.
Pall said she would like to see Moscow cooperate with Whitman County in the development of a regional land-use plan that would create "clustered development" while retaining views and special places.
"Development can take place as well if a have a real plan for clustering that development," Pall said.
Moscow City Councilman John Weber said the decision should bring the city's growth back into the public forum.
"I would think this is going to bring the growth issue of Moscow back into the forefront of discussion," Weber said. "I think it's time for the city of Moscow to take a good hard look at growth issues and our position."
Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney could not be reached for comment.