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Woodinville Invokes Brightwater Mediation Clause

The Woodinville City Council has asked King County to make good on its commitment to mediate disputes regarding concerns it has about the Brightwater Wastewater Treatment (Brightwater) facility by invoking a mediation clause contained in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOA) between the two agencies. Woodinville Mayor Cathy VonWald’s August 4 letter to King County Executive Ron Sims refers to longstanding and growing concerns about the presence of seismic faults on the Brightwater site creating unresolved risks of seismic rupture and catastrophic release of waste and chemicals. In its letter, the City offers to go beyond the MOA process and proposes “conferring and agreeing with the County on a mediator at the outset” or immediately convening a meeting among seismic experts. This could result in a protocol to resolve issues without extensive mediation procedures or legal proceedings.

The MOA, signed in December 2005, addresses broad aspects of the development, use and mitigation of environmental impacts associated with Brightwater. Its “Dispute Resolution Guidelines” call for each party to propose three mediator candidates within ten days of the initiation of dispute resolution, with the final mediator to be chosen by a “blind draw” if the parties cannot agree on one.

The City’s letter notes that it had expected that seismic concerns would be addressed through additional testing that “would be properly conducted, would be subject to direction and review by agencies with expertise, and would therefore assist in resolving outstanding seismic concerns” and expresses disappointment in the County’s decreased level of consultation and communication with the City.

“We have legitimate concerns about seismic conditions on the site, construction of buildings over known earthquake faults and what we believe is inadequate data collection,” states Von Wald about the letter. “We look to the County to adequately and immediately address our concerns as we will be the most impacted city should a major disaster or emergency occur on the site.”

The City’s letter identifies the County’s progressive unresponsiveness to addressing such concerns as one reason the City is now triggering the MOA Dispute Resolution process. Most recently, the County has tried, through the Washington Court of Appeals, to block review by its own King County Hearing Examiner of the County’s seismic environmental impact studies. King County has also asked a Snohomish County Superior Court Judge to retract his written ruling that the City has legal standing to pursue questions concerning the Brightwater project.

“These County actions, if successful, threaten the opportunity for public oversight not only by the City but by citizens,” adds VonWald.

To view the letter and other City correspondence regarding Brightwater, go to the City’s website . (8/10/06)


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