Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Is the Cold War Between Moscow and Whitman County Back On?

It appears that the short period of Détente enjoyed between Moscow and Whitman County since January is (temporarily?) over.

If you read Queen Nancy's rambling and paranoid missive concerning Hawkins, it's not surprising really.

Now, to quote April, Hawkins needs to drill here, drill now, and worry less about Moscow.

From today's Lewiston Tribune:
Progress stalls on shopping center

Disputes over water have set project back two years, Whitman County commissioner says

MOSCOW - Development of the Hawkins Companies shopping center just across the border into Washington has been delayed again, a Whitman County commissioner confirmed Monday.

"They've lost a construction season, that's what it boils down to," Commissioner Jerry Finch said. "They're going to get some work done this fall, but they're not going to have any construction until next year."

Jeff De Voe, spokesman for Hawkins on what's being called the "state line project," declined comment about when construction might begin.

"He's speaking of his own opinion, not mine," De Voe said of Finch. "A lot of things are happening. I don't have anything for you quite now. As of today, it's just quiet."

In April, De Voe estimated earth-moving equipment would start work at the site around June 1, weather permitting.

But Finch, one of the principal proponents of the development, said he talked with De Voe last week and received an update on delays. The proposal calls for a 714,000-square-foot shopping complex with a Lowe's home improvement center as its anchor.

Finch blamed the latest and previous construction delays mostly on Moscow elected officials who've stymied progress by questioning the development's impact on regional groundwater supplies.

"I think this is a stalling technique to kill the project," Finch said, referring to an initial Moscow appeal of Hawkins water rights transfers by Mayor Nancy Chaney, and subsequent slow progress toward reaching a possible agreement for Moscow to provide water services over the state line.

"That, quite frankly, has set this project back about two years," Finch said of the water issues.

His words come two weeks after members of the Moscow Public Works Committee agreed to forward a draft joint powers agreement to Finch and the other Whitman County commissioners. The agreement is necessary before officials at the Idaho Department of Water Resources will consider interstate transfer of a municipal groundwater supply.

"We've been reviewing it," Finch said of the eight-page draft, adding his cursory assessment has left him thinking more negotiation might be needed. He said the county's legal counsel must review the document before anything is sent back to Moscow. The agreement is necessary because IDWR, which has authority over groundwater, wants the water transfer agreement to be between two governmental entities, not between a city government and a private company.

In the meantime, Finch said, De Voe assured him Hawkins will move ahead with or without Moscow's participation. "I was assured by Mr. De Voe last week that drillers would be on site," Finch said of the company's intentions to drill for its own groundwater. "They're going to drill regardless. Hawkins is doing this on their own. They are not willing to gamble with Moscow."

Finch, who has worked closely with Hawkins on promotion of the shopping center, said the company would "cap" any wells it drills and retire its water rights if an agreement is eventually reached with Moscow. He said drilling could start in two weeks.

But the 204-acre construction site appeared to remain untouched Monday. This despite De Voe saying in April that a ribbon-cutting ceremony would likely be conducted to publicly announce the start of construction. A sign promising arrival of the shopping center remained standing Monday.

Finch and fellow commissioners Michael Largent and Greg Partch have heralded the Hawkins shopping center as the beginning of retail development in the Moscow-Pullman corridor. Likewise, Pullman officials have endorsed the project as a much-needed economic catalyst.

Critics, mostly in Moscow, have said it's the beginning of unnecessary retail sprawl. Pro-development candidates who were elected last November to the Moscow city council have couched their support in terms of the development being "inevitable" and Moscow needing to tap into profits by supplying water.

Hawkins completed its $5.45 million purchase of the development site in April. In addition to Lowe's, plans show room for at least two additional big box stores as well as a number of other retail outlets.


Mattwi said...

I said the same thing about relying on Moscow for water i.e. Relying on Moscow = THE FAIL.


April E. Coggins said...

We drove by the site yesterday and there were 2-3 construction type vehicles on the small dirt road that splits the property. They were probably doing exploratory work for the well drilling.

Moscow has made it clear that they would rather cut off their nose to spite their face. So be it.

Satanic Mechanic said...

When is the Queen up for election? Since she likes to meddle in the affairs of Whitman County, I guess she does not mind that I get to vote in the Moscow election.
Hawkins should drill and build a 80,000 gallon water tank that is visible from the Moscow City Hall.

April E. Coggins said...

Our Queen is up for reelection in November 2009. Just imagine, she's only half through remaking Moscow into a Mexican fishing village!