Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shopping center water deal moves ahead

[My comments are in red and all emphasis is mine]

From today's Lewiston Morning Tribune

Moscow takes next step toward providing services to Hawkins

By David Johnson

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

MOSCOW - A controversial water plan took another quick step Monday to becoming a done deal after the Moscow administrative committee agreed to forward the issue back to the city council.

The plan is for Moscow to provide water and sewer services into neighboring Whitman County for construction of a 714,000-square-foot shopping center. Hawkins Companies, headquartered in Boise, is the project developer.

Members of the city council have endorsed the water deal by a 5-1 margin. But the city needs to apply to the Idaho Department of Water Resources for approval.
Les MacDonald, the city's public works director, said IDWR officials are in somewhat of a "quandary" over exactly how city water can legally be supplied outside city limits into another state. But he expected the confusion to be cleared up soon.

Mayor Nancy Chaney and Councilor Tom Lamar are opposed to the deal. "Fundamentally it pits near-term economic gain against long-term environmental sustainability, profit against water, and neighbors against neighbors," Chaney wrote in a recent statement. [Of course Nancy refuses to recognize that her actions and statements have lead to the unprecendented animosity between Moscow and Whitman county. I notice that Moscow is moving ahead with their application to drill Well #10, just over the Idaho state line. Moscow has made no secret of the fact that they plan to use the NEW well for further economic growth in Moscow.]

Councilors Bill Lambert, John Weber, Dan Carscallen, Wayne Krauss and Walter Steed voted in favor of the agreement with Hawkins.

MacDonald said the city has been in touch with Hawkins officials and a letter is being drafted to IDWR. A formal application will follow. The process, MacDonald said, will include public input.

The mayor and council have drawn strong criticism for holding executive sessions and participating in closed mediation sessions prior to reaching agreement with Hawkins. The company was in the process of securing water rights transfers to drill wells for the development when Chaney filed an appeal. The mayor asked for mediation to avert litigation, but didn't agree with the outcome. [ I wish Nancy would explain to us what outcome she expected and would have supported. Is she so delusional that she expected Hawkins and the Dept. of Ecology to roll over and recognize her majesty? Why did she agree to the settlement if she felt so strongly against it?]

Krauss, who was a part of the mediation, said the Hawkins development appeared to be "inevitable" and the city might as well make some money while at the same time controlling the amount of water the shopping center takes from the underground aquifer. The agreement calls for Hawkins to receive 45 acre-feet of city water annually.

City Supervisor Gary Riedner said the city has never extended water outside city limits without formal approval from the city council. So even though the council has endorsed the concept, it must also vote on the final deal. And that hinges on whether IDWR endorses the plan.

Whitman County officials have backed the Hawkins project from the beginning. The county recently opened the Moscow-Pullman corridor to retail development and the shopping center is considered the first step. The county's three commissioners have all chastised Moscow officials, especially Chaney, for going outside their jurisdiction to stymie retail development plans.

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