ICS and local officials began talking about the concept about a year ago. They would build a variation of a membrane reduction sewage treatment system that would produce gray water and very little sludge. The plant wouldn’t need settling ponds, and it could be housed in a normal building anywhere around Cathlamet. They have been talking with officials from the town and from Port District No. 1, whose Elochoman Slough Marina is adjacent to the current treatment plant.
The firm has built similar plants in eastern Oregon communities, including Bend, and most recently designed the system for the new Oregon Health and Science University hospital building on Portland’s south waterfront. The system captures rain water to use in the building’s toilets and plant watering system.
ICS proposes that the plant be financed through development of parks, condominiums and commercial building along the Cathlamet water front. One concept, which interests Port 1 officials, would fill in part of the existing lagoons for a park and amphitheater site and create a boat harbor in the area closest to the Columbia River. Nearby would be condominiums and retail space in buildings limited to three stories in height.
ICS President Harold Grover and Vice-president Jeff Tilleman visited Wahkiakum PUD’s board of commissioners’ meeting Tuesday to talk about possibly using the PUD land.
The development needs roughly seven acres for 200,000 square feet of condominiums and retail space to succeed, Grover said. It’s roughly estimated to cost $40-50 million.
The town has determined that it is legal to trade land for a sewer plant, and thus it would be possible for the PUD to trade land for new facilities, Grover and Tilleman said.
PUD Commissioners Bob Jungers, who is board chair, and Esther Gregg and Larry Reese expressed interest in the ideas but said there would be many details to analyze.
For example, the PUD is planning how to find power to cover future growth in load, Jungers said. It is presently calculating growth of around three to four percent, meaning the future load, which would most likely cost more than power currently available from Bonneville Power Administration, wouldn’t be needed for several years. But the addition of the waterfront development would mean much faster growth and hasten the need to find other power sources, he said.
“We’re scrambling to limit load growth,” Jungers said. “It is punitive on the rates of our constituents.”
Also, PUD officials said they weren’t sure the existing substation could handle the greatly increased load. They have just begun the planning process to build a new substation.
Grover said the development could possibly help cover costs of a new substation as well as new facilities for the PUD.
Gregg added that public acceptance would be very important. In the past four and a half years, the county has embarked on a revision of its comprehensive land use plan, and county residents have stated they would like to see the bucolic, rural atmosphere maintained.
“We appreciate the desire to maintain the rural atmosphere,” Tilleman said. “We’ll try to come up with a way to build the plant that fits the economics of the area. If we can’t make the economics work, we won’t come.”
Other concerns that have been raised are parking and whether or not the town water system could supply water for that large of a development.
Grover and Tilleman also said they were interested in the site of the Wahkiakum County Historical Society Museum.
Steve McNicholas, a representative of the historical society, said the society owns the site free and clear and would be willing to discuss ideas.
“The historical society isn’t adamant that they wouldn’t move,” he said. “There is considerable value in that proposal.”