Ruling on waste transfer station EIS appeal will have to wait

Time will tell whether an environmental impact statement on possible solid waste transfer station sites is up to snuff.

The County Council agreed on Tuesday to move forward with selecting a site for a new solid waste transfer station on San Juan Island and to let the challenge of the environmental impact statement play out at some point down the road.

According to Prosecuting Attorney Randy Gaylord, the council could opt to let the county hearing examiner rule on an EIS challenge right away or wait until the Public Works Department has its designs for a new transfer station in hand and applies for land use and building permits.

In either case, Gaylord said, a decision by the hearing examiner can be challenged in Superior Court, where a ruling can in turn be contested at the state Court of Appeals, and so on until — in theory — a final decision is handed down by the state Supreme Court.

The council, heeding the advice of the prosecutor and administrator, chose the latter.

Administrator Pete Rose said the solid-waste operation on San Juan would be in jeopardy if the council chose the former. He said the odds of state officials granting another extension on the waiver that allows the existing transfer station to operate without a covered tipping floor would be poor should the council back away from selecting a site.

The waiver expires May 15.

The adequacy of the EIS was challenged last week in an appeal filed by four neighbors of a county-owned parcel on Beaverton Valley Road. The 27-acre site is the top choice of five of Public Works and the Solid Waste Advisory Committee for the location and future construction of a new and improved solid-waste transfer station.

Neighbors of Beaverton Valley Road claim that the EIS does not adequately account for the potential of groundwater contamination, pollution from water runoff and dangers posed by an increase in traffic on a narrow, winding and frequently iced-over stretch of road.

The selection of Beaverton Valley Road by Public Works and SWAC is based in large part on an assessment of the five candidate sites and the potential environmental impacts on each, as described in the EIS. Sutton Road, a 26-acre site, which includes the existing transfer station, is choice No. 3 of both Public Works and the SWAC, while Daniel Lane, a 22-acre site on Cattle Point Road, was ranked No. 2 by both.

RELATED STORY: It's been said that if you want to stop growth in your neighborhood, open a hog farm. But could the threat of a hog farm influence the county's decision on where to site a new solid waste transfer station? READ STORY HERE.

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