OCEAN PARK - The North Peninsula Improvement Association (NPIA) may not have moved mountains, but they have plowed through a myriad of red tape, secured $5.6 million in low-interest financing, and purchased and developed North Beach Water Co.
This entity is supplying clean water and increased flow for fire suppression to customers from Joe Johns Road to Cranberry Road.
Now the NPIA wants to ensure that those users of the water also control North Beach Water by creating a public utility district that will add no cost to taxpayers or ratepayers.
"North Beach Water customers would be able to elect leadership to directly manage and operate the company," volunteer general manager R.D. Williams explained. The NPIA is seeking 300 signatures by July 27 in order to put the public utility district proposal on the November ballot.
At present North Beach Water is operated and managed by North Beach Public Development Authority (NBPDA) and the NBPDA's leadership is appointed by Pacific County commissioners.
"Without the support of the county commissioners, we would not have been able to accomplish what we have in creating North Beach Water Company," NPIA member Curt Stephens said. "However, only one of the three commissioners lives in the area served by the water company and the NBPDA is vulnerable to future decisions by the commissioners. They have made it clear they do not want to get into the water business."
Stephens added, "It makes sense to have local control of the water company by people who use the system and a public utility makes sense because there will no additional cost for taxpayers and rates will not go up, either." As of last week there have been 50 petitions returned. The NPIA is considering an additional mailing to North Beach Water customers and petitions can be obtained at the Ocean Park Area Chamber of Commerce office or Buzy Beez in Ocean Park.
On the NBPDA board are Williams as president and Tom Downer, Brad Weatherby, Jim Hagen and Richard Schroeder.
"We have accomplished a great deal by obtaining and improving the water system and by having in place a way to finance the system," Williams said. "The final piece is to get the water company under the control of its users and that can be done by forming a public utility district."
Among its successes, the NPIA during its eight years of existence has worked with the Flood Control Board to alleviate flooding problems in north Pacific County. An outfall near Joe Johns Road and an encased ditch with new pipe to the Loomis Lake outfall are two major components of the flood control project.
Another project, the Beach to Bay Trail from Ocean Park to Oysterville, will see the first of three phases on the trail from "R" Street to Sandridge Road completed this fall. A third major NPIA goal was to remove junk vehicles from the area. In 2005 Bob Hazen, Pacific County Department of Community Development enforcement officer reported that more than 700 vehicles had been crushed by wrecking yards and another 300 had been hauled away. In 2006 there were 855 such vehicles removed according to an NPIA report to members.
In June 2003 the NPIA took on the daunting task of purchasing and developing a water system that could expand to meet future potable water needs, as well as improving water flow for fire suppression. Creating a public development authority similar to the one that owns and operates Seattle's Pike Place Market was the first step. Williams, with the necessary support of the county commissioners, approached the Washington Attorney General and received approval to begin NBPDA.
The Utilities and Transportation Commission approved the project, as did the state department of health. The health department also had to approve a bilateral agreement to tie two existing water systems together. Two $1 million grants were obtained in June and July of 2005 from the state. The key was then receiving $3.6 million financing in the form of revenue bonds from Cashmere Valley Bank.
North Beach Water Company also received the go-ahead from the Pacific County treasurer and auditor's offices to operate the company's finances and to receive payments from users. Ocean Park Water Company and Pacific Water Company were purchased in December 2005 and soon after linked together. Ocean Park Water customers at that time were at 97 percent capacity of available water rights, but Pacific Water had only 300 customers and had key untapped water rights available.
A 3,600-foot water transmission line, 12 inches in diameter, was put in place and a 211,000-gallon storage tank was erected southeast of Ocean Park. A diesel generator, booster pump system, and buildings were also added, with the capital improvements costing $850,000. Rates increased to be commensurate with other local water systems. Water quality was improved to meet more stringent health standards, fire protection was significantly increased and debt incurred to purchase the two water companies. "It has been a lot of hard work to get a viable water system that will be able to meet the expanding needs of the community. It just makes sense to have direct local control of that system by creating a public utilities district at this time," Stephens said.
Williams concluded, "Water is one of our most precious resources and we cannot take it for granted. We need to protect it and control it locally for future generations."