It's been years in the makÿing, but the new sewer facility for Dallesport is just about completed.
The multi-million dollar public works project has been under construction for the past 16 months.
According to Klickitat County Commissioner Don Struck, the plant was ready for initial testing on Sept. 3. Conÿnections to about 360 homes in the area are expected to be completed soon.
"We expect the plant to be on-line and operating probÿably in October," Struck said. "The project is basically done and on time, and we're happy there were no unpleasant surÿprises."
"We're hoping to have the connections start in the next week or 10 days," said Dana Peck, director of the county's Economic Development Deÿpartment.
Struck said the plant will provide significant health benÿefits to Dallesport residents.
"The public health system is hopefully resolved with the sewer system," said Struck. "Back in 1996-97, we had raw sewage running in the streets during high-water events. There were a lot of failed septic systems and failing sepÿtic systems there."
Struck added that the infraÿstructure upgrade provided by the sewer plant will also open the door to economic developÿment opportunities.
"That's what we're betting on: future development and job creation on the Dallesport peninsula. This is the final piece of the puzzle," Struck explained. "There has been a lot of interest in the last 20 years, and a lot of businesses considered locating there beÿcause of its access to rail, highway, and the airport. But it always came down to the fact that we didn't have a sewer system there."
Struck said the project went a little bit over budget, but he was relieved the overall proÿcess went very smoothly.
"It came in at right about $12 million, of which roughly $5 million-$6 million was in grants," he explained. "We're just glad it's almost done and without incident. The commuÿnity had nothing but good to say about the contractors. There were no complaints, which is really nice in a big public works project."
Besides the grants, the proÿject will be paid for through a $10 million Public Works Trust Fund loan from the state. The low-interest loan charges just one half of one percent interest, and is payable over 20 years.
The county used its landfill account to put up $1.5 million in matching funds to qualify for state and federal funding.
The county's Economic Deÿvelopment Department showed the following funding sources for the Dallesport proÿject: Loans: $10 million from the Public Works Trust Fund; and $1.15 million from the State Revolving Loan Fund.
Grants: $2.2 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration; $1.72 million from the Centennial Fund; $750,000 from a Community Development Block Grant; $485,000 from the U.S. Enviÿronmental Protection Agency.
Klickitat County Treasurer Dani Burton cautioned, howÿever, that the project could strain the county's resources.
"All I can do is give a snapshot in time as to what is owed. Right now, we're $9.5 million in debt on Dallesport," Burton explained. "I'm not saying it's not a good project, but when you start adding up the cost, I get concerned."
Burton added that if the county dips into the landfill account to help pay off the debt, that has an impact as well.
"The landfill fund is not a bottomless well," she said. "However much we pay out of the landfill dollars, it's that much we won't be able to do something else with."
The sewer project has been in the works since the mid-1990s. Direct planning for the facility began in 1997, and construction got under way in mid-2001.
Once the plant is fully operÿational, Dallesport residents are expected to pay about $28.75 in sewer services monthly.
"That is a proposed amount," Struck said. "The County Commissioners will make the final decision after meeting with community members."
Sewer hookups cost $1,000 if there was an existing home on the lot. The charge will be $2,500 for new homes to hook up in the future.
Dianne Sherwood, executive director of the Port of Klickiÿtat, was optimistic that the new plant in Dallesport will bring more businesses to the Port-owned industrial park.
"A lot of the leads we get are from larger companies looking for larger spaces of about 50 acres of so," said Sherwood. "There are large numbers of jobs associated with that and they all need sanitary/sewer. You can't have that kind of employer and say, `Oh, by the way, you need a septic system.'"
The Port of Klickitat has 660 acres in Dallesport. The propÿerty is zoned as industrial park/general industrial land.
"It's going to make us much more competitive and more marketable out there," she said.
Struck said he believed the area could see an influx in job-creating employers to the Dalÿlesport area now that the plant is ready to go.
"There has been a lot of interest in the last 20 years," Struck said. "A lot of businessÿes have considered locating there because of its access to rail, highway, and the airport. But it always came down to the fact that we didn't have a sewer system there."
Sherwood added that the wastewater plant -- at the corner of Dock Road and Parÿallel Avenue in the Dallesport Industrial Park -- sits in a "perfect" location.
"It sits in a natural indentaÿtion, with the circulating beds tucked down in there. With a little bit of landscaping you won't even see it," Sherwood explained.
Sherwood praised the county's efforts to get the system in place.
"We're very grateful to the county for undertaking the project. It's really a tremenÿdous asset," Sherwood said. "I'm grateful for the county's foresight. Without that sewer system we couldn't move forÿward. The county has shown great wisdom, not only for the health issue for Dallesport resÿidents, but for economic develÿopment needs of the Port and the community."
Contractors were James Fowler, Inc., of Dallas, Ore., and IMCO Inc., of Bellevue. Kennedy-Jenks, a Portland firm, engineered the project.
Because the Dallesport plant is very similar to the wasteÿwater treatment plant in Bingÿen, the county has signed a contract with the city of Bingÿen to provide maintenance and operations work for the new facility.
Peck sees that as a "win-win" for both facilities.
"It assures Dallesport of an operator that understands the system from Day One," he said. "Bingen will handle day-to-day operations at the plant, take care of billing, and reÿceive a management fee as a result. It's our hope that both systems will be stronger as a result."