PUD discusses Skamokawa water service
May 2, 2019
Last Thursday, the Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Directors held a special meeting at the Skamokawa Grange to speak with Skamokawa residents about a possible expansion to their water system and to listen to their concerns.
The PUD learned a lot about the Class B water systems serving residences in Skamokawa and discovered that there might be a bigger thirst in the neighborhood for a public water system than they had hoped, though some residents had some reservations.
David Tramblie, the general manager for the PUD gave a quick background on the project.
“Last summer the Department of Health informed the PUD there was a potential for a grant to provide potable water to two areas in Skamokawa,” he said. “The PUD applied for and awarded the grant. The state is willing to fund the extension of the Skamokawa Water System within the areas highlighted on the map, but yes there are requirements.”
Commissioner Dennis Reid said that the PUD had just been notified of some of those requirements in the last couple weeks.
Tramblie read from a letter dated April 22 from the Department of Health. It said, “for Wahkiakum PUD to be eligible for and use the WSRC funding at least one of the Group B systems... must become owned by the PUD by project closeout. If Wahkiakum PUD cannot commit to the transfer of ownership of at least one of the Group B systems identified, they will need to forfeit the funding.”
“That is a little bit onerous,” Tramblie added, “but after a conversation I had with a regional engineer at the Department of Health yesterday, there may be a way we can work around this.”
Tramblie used an example to illustrate a possible solution.
“If everyone on the Steamboat Slough extension except for one user were to connect, then the existing source would only serve one household and would no longer be a group water system as it serves only one customer,” Tramblie said. “The Department of Health has indicated that this may be an acceptable option.”
What restrictions did they put on besides condemning springs, asked one attendee.
“If they require us to condemn the springs, that forces the users of the springs to join our system. That was not our intent and it was not our intent when we accepted the grant. If we are bound to the conditions we are just going to send the money back,” Commissioner Bob Jungers said.
Another person had questions about costs to residents.
Our normal policy is a $3,500 system development fee, Tramblie said. “Our intention is to waive that and the time and materials we would normally charge due to the fact that it’s grant money.”
“For a limited period of time,” Jungers added.
Someone had a question about whether the PUD might put in the connection from the road to house, and Tramblie said he was considering it.
“I’m all for it, said Levi Helms. “My family has been trying to get better water into the neighborhood for decades. It’s been a real battle to try and upgrade the Group B systems. I have a lot of hope that we can do something with this, at least eventually.”
Helms came prepared with a list of neighbor’s concerns. They included fees to connect, not just to the meter, but also the portion that is the responsibility of the homeowner.
“We have low income, fixed income, disabled people in the neighborhood,” Helms said.
He also said there was interest in getting some kind of protection against undue rate hikes or undue requests for deposits.
Finally, he shared that people had concerns about chlorination.
Reid said that with the grant to pay for the more than $500,000 project, he believed it was now or never. He also pointed out that the PUD had an elected board, and if customers became unhappy with their decisions, they could express that with a vote. Jungers encouraged attendees to check their record.
The PUD wasn’t looking for a commitment on Thursday, but they were going to need one eventually.
“At some point we’re going to need a commitment from the residents to move forward with the project,” Tramblie said. “This is really your project, it’s not the PUD’s project. Health would want me to tell you that in their eyes, this is a great opportunity to be able to connect to good clean, high quality, potable water.”