It made the list but will the water district get the check?
In a letter addressed to state senator Dale Brandland and representatives Kelli Linville and Doug Ericksen, Washington State Public Works Board executive director John LaRocque told the legislators that Birch Bay was one of the utility districts in Whatcom County that has made a list of recommended projects eligible for low cost loans. A total of $31.2 million has been earmarked for Whatcom County projects.
The public works board is required to submit a list of recommendations to the legislature by November 1. Out of 136 proposals, the board recommended 84 projects as worthy and ready to proceed – Birch Bay’s $2 million wastewater treatment plant headworks upgrade was one of them. If funded by the legislature, a total of $396 million in low-interest loans will be offered and will be matched by an additional $1.2 billion in local and federal funds. The board estimates that over 36,000 construction jobs will be generated over a five-year period.
The big question is – will the legislature fund the program? State lawmakers swept the fund in the last biennium in order to fund budget shortfalls and the situation looks as dire now as it did then, if not worse. Governor Chris Gregoire on Monday, September 13 ordered across the board cuts to state programs. Agencies have been told to lop at least 7 percent from their budget but have been told to prepare for even deeper cuts. The state is forecasting a $3 billion shortfall between revenues and expenditures. The cuts will go into effect on October 1.
At least one person remains cautiously optimistic about the public works funding: John LaRocque. “There’s no guarantee that the money will be there,” he said, “but I’m going to remain optimistic.”
According to LaRocque, the governor and legislators are “deeply concerned” about the state’s infrastructure and the need to repair, replace and update the state’s utilities and roads. “It’s much more expensive when you delay needed replacements or repairs,” he pointed out and said his staff was looking “hither and yon” for sources of funding. “We’ve been asked to come up with ideas on how we can achieve this, and we’ve got good brains working on the problem. Bright ideas are needed to make sure the money gets where it’s needed,” he concluded.
If approved by the legislature and the governor, the earliest contracts could be issued would be July of next year.
Other county projects that have been approved include a $1.7 million water main replacement project in Point Roberts and a treatment plant replacement, Kok Road bridge replacement and sewer relocation in Lynden totaling $31.9 million. Low costs loans of $12.3 million would be made available if all the recommended projects get the OK.