Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, February 08, 2008

"Moscow rescinds appeals, agrees to sell water to Hawkins"

From yesterday's Whitman County Gazette:
The blowing winds of politics have cleared the way for development of a state line strip mall.

The Moscow City Council voted 5-1 Monday night to sell water to Boise-based Hawkins Companies shopping center site just west of the Idaho state line.

“We’re very happy at how this worked out, and are ready to build a shopping center,” said Hawkins Spokesman Jeff DeVoe.

The Moscow city council took on a new look after last fall’s election, when three pro-business candidates were elected to the board.

The settlement agreement was put together during nearly 22 hours of mediation between Moscow, Hawkins, Colton and the state Department of Ecology last week in Spokane.

As part of the agreement, the city will also drop its appeal of the transfer of three water rights to the development site.

Whitman County officials were delighted upon hearing news of the agreement Tuesday morning.

“It just gets better from here,” said Commissioner Michael Largent. “I’ve got to applaud their council at this point for realizing this is in Moscow’s best interest.”

By providing water to the development, Largent noted, the city could add to its water and sewer funds. He added the development adjacent to Moscow would draw more shoppers to the city’s west end retail stores.

“This was going to go in, anyhow,” said Commissioner Jerry Finch. “I guess they just realized it’s better to get something out of it than to continue to fight it and get nothing.”

In October, Moscow appealed Ecology’s decision to approve the transfer of three water rights to service the shopping center. A fourth transfer was denied by Ecology and appealed by Hawkins.

The accord ensured the town of Colton would get its right to draw 100 acre-feet of water from Union Flat Creek.

Hawkins acquired that right from the Maleys at LaCrosse, but could not apply that water to the shopping center, as it is nowhere near Union Flat Creek.

The creek enters Washington from Idaho near Uniontown, and flows through Colton before heading west to the Palouse River at the Adams County line.

Colton was in the process of acquiring a 22 acre-feet right from the McKiernan Bros. of Pullman when Hawkins approached the town about a swap.

Under the terms of the agreement, Hawkins must relinquish the approved water rights, and drop its appeal of the overturned water right.

Those water rights will now be owned by the state.

If the Idaho Department of Water Resources approves the city’s plan to provide water across the state line, Moscow will provide up to 45 acre-feet of water for use inside the stores in the development. One acre-foot is equivalent to 325,851 gallons of water.

Another 20 acre-feet will be provided for irrigation purposes, and the city will provide approximately 2,500 to 3,000 gallons per minute for fire flow.

Hawkins will be charged Moscow’s standard fees for water and sewer service.

Hawkins is on the hook for extending pipes from the city to the development. The company will be reimbursed for those costs by the county. The county will then own and be responsible for those pipes.

Commissioners Monday announced they would issue up to $9.1 million in bonds to buy the public infrastructure from Hawkins.

“We agreed to our worst-case scenario,” said Largent. “The price can only drop from here.”

Moscow’s provision of water cuts more than $4 million from the projected costs of installing infrastructure at the site.

The county estimated a sewage treatment facility would cost $2 million, installing wells and pumping structures would cost $900,000, and building a water tank to store fire flow would cost $1.5 million.

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