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Wetlands project may be dead issue

Port of Sunnyside engineer Bob Farrell briefs port commissioners on Monday about the likelihood that a wetlands will not be needed.

Port of Sunnyside engineer Bob Farrell briefs port commissioners on Monday about the likelihood that a wetlands will not be needed. Photo by John Fannin.

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Time changes things and nowhere is that truer than with state agencies.

A decade ago, Port of Sunnyside officials thought a wetlands project in cooperation with the Army Corps of Engineers would satisfy state standards for discharging its treated industrial wastewater.

That appears to not be the case, as this past Monday Port of Sunnyside commissioners received a report indicating that creating a wetlands would not only be no guarantee of meeting tighter state standards, but would also cost the port $6 million.

In addition, the port is moving forward with an anaerobic digester that’s expected to double its wastewater plant’s capacity. That, in turn, will help enable some of its industrial customers to expand operations.

The digester, too, is expected to cost about $6 million.

The upshot, says port engineer Bob Farrell, is the digester “…is sufficient to meet the anticipated permit requirements without a wetland.”

Farrell’s comments came in the report he provided to commissioners on Monday. In response, they concurred with Farrell’s recommendation.

Jay Hester is the port’s executive director, and he anticipates commissioners will weigh in further on the wetlands future, perhaps as soon as next month.

That’s because commissioners will have to formally approve the move to withdraw from the wetlands project and the partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Hester says it’s possible the port may have some expenses associated with the move as it was committed to help with a portion of the design costs associated with the wetlands project.

Hester says those possible costs will be determined by how far along the corps was in the design stage.

Even then, it will be far less than the millions to develop a wetlands that would likely not even do the job in meeting state standards.

“There’s a heavier standard put upon us,” says Hester. “The water will have to be treated to a higher quality.”

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