St. Michelle Wine Estates asks to reconsider Red Mountain design

By Kristi Pihl, Herald staff writerFebruary 20, 2013 

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates asked the Kennewick Irrigation District to reconsider the design for its $17.2 million Red Mountain project.

KID Board President Gene Huffman told Kevin Corliss, Ste. Michelle's vice president of vineyards, on Tuesday that the board would consider the winery's concerns about the visual impact from the current design of the project to bring water from the Yakima River to the wine grape growing land.

Also Tuesday, KID directors unanimously approved hiring Rotschy of Vancouver, Wash., for the first phase of the project in the Red Mountain American Viticultural Area between Richland and Benton City. This phase does not include the portion Corliss said Ste. Michelle was concerned about.

Corliss said Ste. Michelle is concerned how the water delivery booster and storage station planned just to the southwest of Ste. Michelle's Col Solare property would be right in the middle of the vista that is part of what made the location Ste. Michelle's choice for the winery.

"It is the jewel of our Washington portfolio, the Col Solare winery is," he said.

Ste. Michelle, which represents 65 percent of Washington's wine industry, asked the board and its Red Mountain neighbors to do everything possible to mitigate the impact of the water system development on Col Solare.

At a recent meeting of property owners who are part of the local improvement district for the Red Mountain project, most property owners said they were not willing to increase the cost of the project to bury the tanks for aesthetic purposes.

Landowners will pay for the project using a local improvement district, or LID. KID is one of the landowners, with about 620 acres.

The water will be used to irrigate about 1,785 acres on Red Mountain, allowing more wine grapes to be planted in the area.

At the same meeting, landowners gave their approval to KID to move forward with the first phase of the project, which will involve preparing the intake station site.

Most of the 30,000 cubic yards of rock to be excavated will be removed as part of the first phase. Some of that rock will be used for access roads. Concerns about the stability of basalt in that area caused Paul Cross of Richland's RH2 Engineering to recommend to the KID board in January to prepare the site early so it can determine the actual status of the rock.

The $536,233 bid from Rotschy came in about 45 percent lower than the engineer's estimate of $980,000. Cross said four of the five bids were very competitive. All were from Washington companies.

Also Tuesday:

w The KID board approved lowering the interest rate for the Canyon View Irrigation System LID in a 3-0 vote.

District Manager Chuck Freeman told directors a property owner in the LID has asked for the interest rate of 8.25 percent to be reviewed.

Landowners felt a different rate should have been used for the LID approved in 2009. KID staff and the finance committee did find possible conflicting actions with the interest rate, according to KID documents.

Because the $245,800 project was fully funded by KID, Freeman said staff feels it is best to fix the interest rate at 3.75 percent. The change will be applied retroactively.

KID Treasurer Colleen Storms said KID has about six LIDs that it is receiving payments from. Canyon View's situation is a unique one.

KID's policy has been updated, but Storms said more work needs to be done.

Director David McKenzie asked that the issue be brought to the finance committee.

Directors Patrick McGuire and Penny Hermanson abstained from the vote because they own property near the LID.

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