Birch Bay sewer rates to increase 4 percent next year

Published on Wed, Dec 18, 2013 by Ian Ferguson

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At their December meeting, Birch Bay Water and Sewer District (BBWSD) commissioners approved a 4 percent increase to water and sewer rates in 2014 and heard good and bad news regarding the construction of a new headworks facility.

In digging the foundation for the $1.9-million headworks facility, which will help filter debris out of incoming sewage, construction crews ran into a “gooey clay layer,” said BBWSD assistant general manager Dan Eisses. The instable layer required contractors to lay gravel and geo-textile material below the foundation.

“That increased our contractor costs a little bit,” Eisses said.

The good news is that subsurface water wasn’t a problem in digging the 10-foot-deep section of the two-level foundation. Carpenters built wooden forms on December 16, rebar was placed December 17 and crews are scheduled to pour concrete on Thursday, December 19.

“It’s a good-looking foundation so far,” Eisses said. “We’re happy with it.”

Eisses presented a report forecasting a 1–2 percent decrease in water usage based on recent trends. Commissioner Pat Alesse explained that BBWSD calculates rate adjustments every year based on forecasted changes in usage and predicted expenses.

“All of us want to have a system that is in good shape and functions well,” he said. “Making sure the system is efficient and maintaining and upgrading it as necessary saves us money in the long run, because we make fewer repairs.”

Eisses added that the 10-year capital improvement plan is factored into rate increases as well.

“We try to keep our rates increasing smoothly, so there’s not a 10 percent jump one year and no increase the next,” he said. “We have a 10-year rate model that we plug our budget into.”

Even with the 4-percent increase, BBWSD customers will still have one of the lowest rates in Whatcom County. According to data compiled by BBWSD, the average monthly water and sewer bill for a Whatcom County customer who uses 800 cubic feet of water per month in 2014 will be $89.48, while the rate for a Birch Bay customer using the same amount of water in 2014 will be $59.70 per month. Birch Bay Water and Sewer District customers are billed bi-monthly.

The Birch Bay Water and Sewer District was established in the 1960s, and the treatment plant was built in the ’70s. Approximately 7,500 customers rely on the district. Birch Bay’s water is delivered under a long-term contract with the city of Blaine.

“We have a great working partnership with Blaine,” Eisses said.