Much-touted Satsop sewer project hits speed bumps

SATSOP — The Satsop Business Park is abandoning a plan to bring a sewer line from the City of Elma to the Fuller Hill development park, at least for now.

Instead, Satsop CEO Tami Garrow says the group will look at what it would take to install a stand-alone modular wastewater system at the park.

On Monday, The Grays Harbor County commissioners approved $75,000 for the park to conduct a feasibility study to see if the stand-alone system is possible. The money had previously been allocated for the design work necessary to bring the sewer line to the business park.

The county and business park had already spent $25,000 to figure out different routes a sewer line could take to get up Fuller Hill.

The county’s share of the funds has come from a .09 percent sales tax rebate the county gets from the state to invest in economic development and infrastructure projects.

In April, as part of the state’s capital budget, the Legislature approved $4 million of the $5.9 million necessary to do the upgrades. The Public Development Authority has been searching for the rest of the funds, but Garrow says that other grant funds have just not been available.

Local legislators have been touting the infrastructure improvement during the election season as a way of helping both the City of Elma and the business park and as a means to attract more jobs to the park.

Garrow says she wishes the original plan had worked out.

“We were unsuccessful in identifying how to fund the difference,” Garrow said. “We discovered our project was ineligible for Public Works Trust Fund financing, and even if it had been, the PWTF had about five times as many requests as they had money, so even if we had been able to somehow solve the problem of how to apply, the likelihood was that funding would not be available — and, that was loan money, not grant money.”

Other funding sources through federal partners also didn’t pan out, Garrow said.

The last time the park researched a stand-alone system was in 2007, when it was estimated to cost $15 million to $20 million.

“Costs for these types of systems have come down considerably in the past five or so years,” Garrow said, noting the park’s consultants think a $4 million budget may be feasible.

Garrow said she touched base with local legislators, the county and the Port of Grays Harbor, which is in the process of acquiring the business park.

“All were in agreement that this modification made sense; it made the project possible because otherwise we would be $2 million short and it was not looking promising to find the missing dollars,” Garrow said. “This project will install a new modular wastewater treatment system for the Park, that is expandable over time and uses our existing infrastructure to complement the new system.”

Garrow noted the entire project is supposed to be well under way by June of 2014, due to requirements with the state grant. She says the business park is well on its way to completing the engineering and design portion of the project already.

“While I personally would have preferred to be able to find a way to hook into Elma’s system, providing the city with a new customer and also providing access to the system for others along the route, the funds simply were not there to build the bigger project,” she said.