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Timing of water, sewer update not consistent with other plans

September 14, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- By the time a round of long-postponed updates to Washington County's Water and Sewerage Plan is approved, the updated information will be several years out of date, county planning staff said Monday night at a public meeting.

The Water and Sewerage Plan documents all of the water and sewer systems in the county and shows their projected status up to about 20 years in the future, chief senior planner Timothy Lung said.

State regulations call for the plan to be updated every three years, but Washington County's plan has not gone through a comprehensive update since 1994, Lung said.

An update process that began in 2004 is nearing completion, but the updated version uses data current as of Jan. 1, 2006, Lung said.

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Choosing one date was necessary for consistency as staff gradually compiled elements submitted by municipalities and three different county departments, Lung said. The first element of the update, submitted by the Department of Water Quality, used Jan. 1, 2006, so planning staff asked the other parties to submit updates current as of that date, he said.

There were no public comments on the updates during Monday night's hearing at the Washington County Courthouse, but Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire questioned staff on whether it was a good idea to approve an update already more than three years out of date.

Aleshire suggested using Jan. 1, 2008, instead, but Lung said that would mean asking all of the service-providing agencies and municipalities to resubmit entire tables full of data.

The Water and Sewerage Plan is separate from the Water Resources Element (WRE), a new section the state has mandated counties add to their comprehensive plans.

The updated Water and Sewerage Plan will provide a good foundation as the county begins preparing its WRE, but after the WRE is completed, the Water and Sewerage Plan will need to be updated again to reflect it, Lung said.

In addition to bringing maps and other information more up to date, the current round of updates also involved adding Internet links to state information and replacing old, paper maps with better, digital versions, Lung said.

The reason the plan has not seen a major update since 1994 is that the county was in the midst of updating its comprehensive plan and establishing a state-mandated water and sewer advisory commission, and it didn't make sense to update the plan until those projects were complete, Lung said.

"We felt it was premature to do an update to the water and sewer plan knowing that just a few years later, we were going to have a new comprehensive plan," Lung said. "The state understood the position we were in and was willing to grant us the extensions."

Lung said the outdated plan has not really hampered development planning because the development that has occurred since 1994 has been in areas where plans for water and sewer service have not changed since the current plan was written.

However, the outdated plan does pose problems when seeking state permits or funding for water- or sewer-related capital projects, because the state will not sign off unless the project is in the plan, Lung said.

So far, new projects have been added to the plan individually as needed, but a comprehensive update is preferable to those piecemeal updates, he said.

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