Westend residents press PUD for water main extension
May 20, 2021
A few Westend community members attended the Wahkiakum County PUD Board of Commissioners meeting in person or via Zoom on Tuesday to encourage the PUD to move forward on a project to bring water to the Deep River area.
Westend resident Karen Bertroch wondered if there might be money available through President Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan to complete the water line to the western border of the county.
“It sounds like there would be money available, and it seems a shame that the whole county has been addressed for water and there is that last, short area that has no water,” she said.
Another Westend resident, Corbett McMasters, spoke of a neighbor who he said had hundreds of acres, paid the same taxes as people in other areas of the county, and unlike other people in the county with potable water, could not split up his property. He spoke of another neighbor who had a million dollar piece of property, but because of a lack of potable water, it was currently worth about $250,000.
“This affects 33 people,” McMasters admitted. “It could be 300, because people want to buy property.”
Another visitor wondered who at the PUD was going to go after the funding to pay for the project.
Commissioner Dennis Reid said he had already contacted elected officials to ask for assistance, but he thought he could get farther with more information and support from the residents on the Westend. Bertroch expressed a willingness to help.
General Manager Dave Tramblie said during his report that 1,089 poles had been tested so far in a pole testing project being completed by a contractor, and that they had found 15 that needed to be replaced. The contractor will continue to test the poles on the east end of the county, which have already been numbered. The poles on the west side will be numbered in the fall and winter, and tested next spring.
Tramblie also said that the PUD had ordered 700 feet of six inch HDPE pipe to replace one of the last sections of concrete asbestos pipe on East Sunny Sands. He expected the project would start in June or July, and that would leave them with about 300-400 feet of concrete asbestos left on Puget Island.
Tramblie’s thoughts returned to the Deep River water project. He said he had continued to research the costs and believed that it would cost $75,000 to install pipe the final 900 feet along Salmon Creek Road to the highway, just a portion of the project that needed to be completed.
“This whole issue doesn’t have anything to do with merit,” Commissioner Gene Healy said. “It’s got to do with money, in my judgement. I believe that at some point, everybody should have access to public water if they want it. It becomes a matter of how do we finance it, and it gets tricky.”
“If we can get a grant to pay for the whole thing then we can probably hook people up at no cost,” Reid said, “but if we have to do it with loan funds or our reserves, then people are probably going to have to pay standard hookup fees and pay for the construction of the pipe on their property.”
Commissioner Bob Jungers suggested that residents knew or should have known they didn’t have potable water when they bought property and wondered if they were asking the PUD to subsidize their economic development.
“Isn’t that part of your mission as a Public Utility District?” Bertroch asked. “It seems to me that we will have economic development when there is water. Yes, these people bought their property knowing there was no water there but they assumed they would be able to get water by drilling water or another route.
“I think we would have far more development and people and things going on in Deep River.”
Commissioners moved on to other topics, continuing the discussion regarding the general manager search, specifically about how to conduct the interviews, and salary, before a brief discussion about the recording and accessibility of board meetings.
Commissioners gave their reports, and the meeting was adjourned.