Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Water ruling leaves developer, officials in the dark"

I have some comments on this article from today's Lewiston Trubune.

Nancy Chaney's version of "cooperation" on development is imposing her San Francisco born-and-bred snobbish, neourbanist vision on Whitman County. Do you suppose that it has ever occured to the Queen that we aren't about to drink her brand of Kool-Aid about "sustainable development" and since we didn't elect her, we don't have to?

And I don't know what's funnier to me: an arrogant "welder/artist" pontificating about "good science" or a hippie nurse with a Master's degree in "Environmental Studies."

If the Hawkins development falls through, Moscow and Mark Solomon will be directly responsible. Sure, this Ecology issue would have come up, but it would have been two years and several hundred thousand dollars ago. Hawkins' risk tolerance is much lower now after the repeated appeals and protests from across the border. And if Hawkins does pull out, the corridor will NEVER attract another developer until municipal water and sewer is extended from Pullman, which could be decades, or never. But of course, that's what the Moscow Communist Association wants. Make no mistake, the regional political fallout will be long-lasting and severe.

But don't give up hope quite yet. Hawkins will issue a statement by tomorrow. And I can assure you that your County Commmissioners are doing everything they can to make the best of this bad situation.
State Department of Ecology OKs three of four water rights transfers for proposed shopping mall just west of Moscow

Confusion set in Tuesday as a Boise developer and local officials struggled to understand what a water rights ruling means for the planned Hawkins development just west of Moscow.

"It's too early to say," said Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney of the Washington Department of Ecology's ruling that approved three water rights transfers but denied a fourth. "I haven't reviewed (the decision) yet."

Chaney has opposed the 700,000-square-foot shopping mall because it sits just across the state line in Whitman County, but will tap an aquifer under Moscow that knows no political boundaries. On Tuesday she reiterated her belief that regional governments should cooperate on such developments, regardless of those boundaries.

The chief operating officer at Hawkins Companies, Jeff Hess, officially offered a "no comment" to the Lewiston Tribune because his company is also trying to digest the mixed ruling. He said Hawkins' attorneys only got the ruling Monday afternoon, and the company was working on an official statement that could be released today or Thursday.

But one thing was clear to Whitman County Commissioner Jerry Finch: "My personal fear is that this project is getting pretty spendy," he said, "and with construction costs going up, they're (Hawkins) going to pull the pin on the whole project."

Finch said when the project was just getting started more than two years ago, Hawkins representatives were excited they had acquired some "cheap dirt" on which to build.

"This 'cheap dirt' project is becoming awful expensive,"
he said.

Finch explained the one water right not granted, the Jones surface water diversion from the South Fork of the Palouse River, got hung up because the Ecology Department was not sold on Hawkins' plan to replace water into Paradise Creek.

And even though that was one of the smaller water rights, Finch still expressed fear it may be a deal-buster simply because it constitutes another delay in the project.

Hawkins did, however, succeed in arguably the most tricky part of the transfers. The Ecology Department approved the transfer of water from the Maley well three miles north of LaCrosse to the town of Colton, which freed Hawkins to buy water rights from the McKeirnan well in Pullman.

Colton had previously sought the McKeirnan water for its expansion plans. But Hawkins convinced city officials to hold off while it shopped around for another water right the town could obtain.

Last spring, Moscow city officials filed complaints with the Whitman County Water Conservancy Board after it gave initial approval to all four requested transfers. The Ecology Department upheld three, including those from the S&D Mader well and the McKeirnan well, both north of Pullman.

Chaney filed the complaints because she thought the conservancy board didn't adequately consider the potential impact of the development on Moscow's water. She also worried about the traffic and safety impacts the mall could bring.

And even though she is still trying to understand the details of the ruling, Chaney said she wasn't happy that three of the four transfers were upheld. "I was disappointed from the perspective of someone who thinks that good science should win out."

Chaney has been criticized in some sectors as opposing all development, a charge she has denied.

The 110-acre Hawkins site is located on the Moscow-Pullman Highway, and butts up against the Moscow city limits. Whitman County has placed 26 conditions on the development, including some that mitigate car, pedestrian and cyclist traffic. The mall is to be centered around a Lowe's home improvement store, and could include other big-box stores and a mix of smaller retailers.

The Department of Ecology's rulings can be appealed to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board in Olympia within 30 days. Calls to the Department of Ecology were not immediately returned.

1 comment:

April E. Coggins said...

I hope this DOE decision puts to rest all fantasies of Moscow having water rights (or any rights) in Washington state. They don't and never have. Any cooperation between our border entitities consists entirely of goodwill and a polite acknowledgement of our neighbors. Goodwill consideration cannot be demanded, it must be nurtured, appreciated and reciprocated.

I also hope that this is the last and final time we will see a dateline of Moscow, Idaho when a newspaper article is referring to Hawkins or any other future corridor development.