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Will Daniel Lane get more consideration for San Juan Island solid waste transfer station?

BULLETIN: Four Beaverton Valley residents have filed an appeal of the Environmental Impact Statement for the solid waste transfer station project. The appeal was filed today by John Gauthier, Juniper Maas, Mike MacDonald and Jack Yelverton. The appeal will be heard by the San Juan County hearing examiner. More to follow.

They may be the leading contenders, but Beaverton Valley and Sutton Road are not the only options for a new solid-waste transfer station on San Juan Island.

And at least one islander believes that Daniel Lane, a 22-acre site consisting of three appropriately-zoned and privately-owned parcels on Cattle Point Road, may be better suited than the other two sites under consideration.

On Tuesday, the County Council took the reins of the controversial transfer station project, beginning with a public hearing in which battle lines were drawn largely along the interests of competing neighborhoods. More than 20 islanders weighed in on the hotly-debated topic and together offered up nearly two hours of advocacy, analysis and criticism for the council to digest.

Claudia Mills, a neighbor of the Sutton Road transfer station for the past 30 years, said the largest wetland in the county, straddled by Sutton and Beaverton Valley roads, could be jeopardized by pollution if a new transfer station were built at either site.

"I do agree with many of the comments about groundwater contamination and runoff," Mills said. "Both the Beaverton Valley site and the Sutton Road site run into two sides of the very same largest wetland in the county. Maybe you should take a really good look at Daniel Lane."

The Solid Waste Advisory Committee and the Department of Public Works each ranked Daniel Lane as choice No. 2, behind Beaverton Valley Road, for the site of a new transfer station. Sutton Road was ranked No. 3 by both.

Though its decision is not expected for another three weeks or more, time is not on the council's side. A waiver from the state Department of Ecology that allows the facility on Sutton Road to operate without a cover over its tipping floor expires in mid-May. Another extension, according to Administrator Pete Rose, will depend in large part on the progress the council has made in siting a new facility.

While its options are many, Rose said that May 14 is a key date for the council to keep in mind.

"The last two variances have been conditioned on the council making a decision on a new site," he said. "In other words, make progress and they'll continue to work with us."

The council will tackle its selection process in a pair of work sessions on April 14 and April 27, and reconvene Tuesday's public hearing on April 28.

As council members listened, Tuesday's hearing was dominated by a tug-of-war over the Beaverton Valley and Sutton Road sites. That clash revolved around the SWAC and Public Works recommendations, an earlier evaluation of five potential sites, the basis for those recommendations, and pros and cons of building a new transfer station at a different location.

Barbara Marrett, a neighbor of the Sutton Road site, noted that Beaverton Valley Road, a 27-acre county-owned parcel, was endorsed as the top choice by SWAC and Public Works following more than two years of evaluation. As a result, she said, the council's decision ought to be clear.

"You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that buying a leaking landfill isn't a good idea," she said. "Do we throw more tax dollars on a steep, unsafe, contaminated and inadequate site simply because it's always been there, or do we build what we need as we need it?"

Lauren Jawer said that the steep terrain and limited space at Sutton Road would make it difficult to build a transfer station that could meet future demand. Eventually, she said, the era of self-haul would be replaced by mandatory curbside-pickup without added investment.

"The shortcomings of the site will curtail self-haul at some point," she said. "When that happens, it will have to be redesigned and engineered all over again at additional costs."

Meanwhile, those who live near the Beaverton Valley Road site took aim at the adequacy of the project's environmental impact statement, management by the county of the existing transfer station and the costs of relocating the solid-waste operation.

A neighbor of Beaverton Valley Road, Michael MacDonald is one of two members of SWAC who voted to keep the transfer station where it is. He said the environmental evaluation does not account for the impacts a new transfer station will have on water wells that serve the neighborhood or the numerous points of water-runoff that drain an area that's saturated by rain water four months out of the year.

"All around the edges of this site there are unexamined drainage issues that will cost something," he said. "On the inaccurate information given to both SWAC and this council, stormwater detention is estimated at zero, nothing. Water goes off this site at least five places."

Furthermore, MacDonald said, there's an 40-foot tall undeveloped landfill on the site that contains large tree trunks and junk vehicles, and possibly other debris, and which is unaccounted for in the environmental evaluation.

"It's completely uncommented upon, to my knowledge, in all of these proceedings," he said.

Bill Hamilton said that the lack of safety on Beaverton Valley Road — which he described as narrow, winding and frequently iced-over — only adds to concerns about the potential of groundwater contamination.

"By my count, there are at least 40 well-dependent properties, where wells serving those properties are in close enough proximity to the Beaverton Valley site to justify concern about well contamination," he said. "And that's especially true when you consider the manner in which the current site has been managed."

Given the conditions at Sutton Road, Sean Mercer said all islanders should be skeptical about the county's ability to build and manage a transfer station at a new location, and of footing the bill.

"If Public Works can't manage the current site and conform to codes," he said, "how can we trust that they will be able to handle the new one, in a new location?"

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