Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Water rates hearing could focus on shopping center"

Oh, joy. Another chance for Moscow's self-appointed experts in hydrology and urban planning to pontificate.

From today's Lewiston Tribune:
MOSCOW - The Hawkins Companies shopping center proposal could get another public airing Aug. 4 when a hearing will likely be conducted here on proposed interstate water rates.

Details are still being worked out.

Members of the Moscow City Council on Monday night proposed charging Whitman County 2.5 times the normal in-town rate for water. Whitman County officials, in turn, are considering offering the water to the Hawkins development.

The company has expressed a desire to buy Moscow water, but needs to work through a government entity to obtain it. In the meantime, Hawkins continues to drill its own wells just over the border in Washington.

The proposed interstate water sale appears to be unprecedented and continues to be monitored by the Idaho Department of Water Resources. The agency has authority over pumping and allocating Idaho groundwater.

The city of Moscow, at the direction of IDWR, has proposed a joint-powers agreement with Whitman County. County commissioners have asked for a cost figure before signing an agreement.

All parties expressed an interest to expedite the process by having a joint meeting of officials. But that apparently won't happen until after Moscow holds the public hearing and city councilors vote.

Hawkins has dubbed the shopping center the "Stateline Project." Plans call for 714,000 square feet of retail stores, including three possible big-box outlets. A Lowes home improvement center is projected to be one of the anchors.

Proponents have called the development the beginning of much-needed retail growth in the Moscow-Pullman corridor. Opponents countered the shopping center represents unnecessary sprawl and threatens groundwater resources.

Hawkins indicated landscaping and other construction might start as early as June 1. Company spokesman Jeff De Voe has not given a reason for the delay.

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