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Expansion of local port's treatment plant intregal part of economic plan

It's still only a final draft, but a project to double capacity at the Port of Sunnyside's wastewater treatment plant is one of the main priorities for economic growth in a region that includes Yakima and Kittitas counties.

That's according to the Yakima and Kittitas Counties Regional Comprehensive Economic Development Plan released this week by the Yakima County Development Association (YCDA) and the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce.

The draft plan took nearly a year to develop and included several open public hearings held throughout the region, including one in Grandview.

The idea is to create a comprehensive economic development strategy to aid in planning for future development and to enhance the possibility of project funding by the federal Economic Development Association.

While expansion of the port's industrial wastewater treatment plant is at the top of the 20 projects proposed for economic development, it doesn't mean the port project will be the first one funded.

That's according to Dave McFadden, YCDA's president and CEO.

"At this point it was the highest ranking project," says McFadden. "That doesn't mean it's the first in line for priority funding."

That, of course, will depend on how federal funding develops and the efforts by each of the 20 projects identified in the plan to procure funding.

At the same time, McFadden notes the port's industrial wastewater treatment facility is a priority as it will lead to opportunities for more industries to locate in the area. "It will create jobs and trigger private investment," McFadden says.

In fact, McFadden is so supportive of the port's treatment plant expansion that he encouraged port officials to submit an application for a grant/loan package to cover a portion of the cost through Yakima County's Supporting Investments in Economic Development (SIED) funds.

That application is not related to the development plan released this week.

"The port needs to do this expansion," says McFadden, who estimates it will cost about $6 million. He says if the Port of Sunnyside can have a pledge by SIED to help support the project it will help make the case for federal aid.

McFadden says leveraging SIED as a partner in economic development was the same approach for Grandview's downtown improvements.

The next step for the comprehensive economic development plan is for Kittitas and Yakima county commissioners to review the final draft and consider it for approval.

From there, McFadden says it's up to each of the applicants to seek out funds.

"We'll be involved with some of them, but the projects fall back to the applicants to make them go," he says.

It's an exciting time for the Port of Sunnyside, both in having a high priority on the regional development plan and in possibly having SIED funds to help get the wastewater treatment plant expanded.

"I'm tickled to death because we've had a proven track record in getting industry here and building family wage jobs," says Jim Grubenhoff, a Port of Sunnyside commissioner. "Anything we can do to help us will help the county."

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