Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"IDWR: Intergovermental agreement needed for city to sell water to Hawkins"

Queen Nancy thinks "it'll be time-consuming." Of course she does.

From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Moscow and Whitman County will have to enter into an intergovernmental agreement if the city wants to provide water to the Hawkins Companies development.

Moscow City Supervisor Gary Riedner said Idaho Department of Water Resources officials told Moscow leaders last week that such an agreement will be required for the city to move forward with its application to modify Moscow's water service area to serve the Hawkins retail development just across the state line.

The city agreed to make "prompt application" to IDWR in a settlement with Hawkins, reached during closed-door mediation in February.

The process to create the intergovernmental agreement is just beginning, Riedner said. Moscow and Whitman County leaders have not been able to find a suitable date for an initial meeting.

Whitman County Public Works Director Mark Storey said he expects a meeting to occur within the next few weeks. It will then take a month or two for Moscow City Attorney Randy Fife, Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy and other city and county officials to work out the agreement.

"I think the basic agreement's kind of simple," Storey said. "They agree to sell us water and we agree to pay for it, then we pass it on to Hawkins."

Riedner said intergovernmental agreements are fairly commonplace. The city and county already have mutual aid agreements for police and fire services in emergencies, for example.

IDWR Public Information Officer Bob McLaughlin said a 2005 letter to Fife from Deputy Idaho Attorney General Steve Strack explains the need for the intergovernmental agreement.

Strack wrote Idaho cities are authorized to enter joint service agreements "where it is more practical to construct and maintain a unified water or sewage system than for each city to provide separately such services to their respective residents." The municipalities' water rights would be amended to include the joint service area.

Strack wrote that similar agreements across state lines are potentially available under a section of Idaho Code that authorizes Idaho public agencies to "enter into cooperative agreements" with out-of-state public entities. Any agreement to extend services across state lines "would have to be carefully crafted to address issues such as authority to levy and collect taxes and fees."

The letter includes other rules and regulations regarding out-of-state water use and delivering water across state lines.

McLaughlin said he could not comment on the Hawkins situation aside from referring to the Strack letter, which was written in response to a separate inquiry from Fife.

Riedner said at Monday's City Council meeting that the city will see if it can send a letter to IDWR stating the city and county are pursuing the agreement, and move forward with the application while the agreement is being finalized.

The Moscow City Council and Whitman County commissioners will discuss and vote on any agreement publicly. Riedner said Hawkins officials also will review the agreement.

Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney said the city will make an effort to move expediently on the agreement, as stated in the settlement with Hawkins, but it may not be easy.

"I think it'll be time-consuming," she said.

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