Snake River project hits unstable ground

Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 8, 2014 

The Port of Walla Walla's project to install a sewer pipe 40 feet under the Snake River has hit unstable ground.

The contractor, Apex Directional Drilling of Portland, has struggled to get the soil to stabilize enough in the first part of the project, officials said.

But Jim Kuntz, the port's executive director, said the contractor and port are continuing to work on ways to get the casing pipe correctly installed in the first couple hundred feet, which contains cobbles and loose gravel.

The line under the Snake River is a critical part of the port's project to bring city of Pasco sewer to the Burbank Business Park and the Columbia School District's three schools in Burbank.

The 120-acre business park allows commercial and light industrial zoning, meaning distributors could have warehouse operations with easy access to Highway 12.

Port officials hope offering sewer service will help spur economic development in the business park and Burbank area. Currently, the entire community of Burbank relies on septic systems to handle its waste.

Once the pipe casing is through the first couple hundred feet, Kuntz said the contractor will drill through basalt, which should be easier.

So far, port commissioners have approved spending $26,500 to install additional casing pipe, Kuntz said.

The additional cost is on top of the $1.3 million contract port officials signed with Apex, Kuntz said. But because of contingencies, the project remains within the overall budget of $2.1 million.

Kuntz said the port hopes to have the piping under the Snake River finished this spring.

Then the port still will need to install pipes to connect the Franklin County side of the river pipe to the city of Pasco's system. And the Burbank side of the pipe will need to be extended to the school district, he said.

Kuntz expects those projects may begin this summer but said the system will not be finished and operational until 2015.

Finishing the connections will cost about $336,000 for the Franklin County side and $467,000 for the Burbank side, Kuntz said. Some state funding will help to pay for the cost to connect sewer to the schools. The district will pay a monthly sewer fee once service begins.

There is a possibility the port's system could provide sewer to homes in Burbank. Kuntz said the port's agreement with the city of Pasco allows the port to serve properties within the Burbank urban growth boundary.

Commissioners reached an agreement with the city of Pasco last year to purchase 100,000 gallons of daily sewer capacity for $900,000 paid over three years. The port will buy additional capacity in the next 15 years and also pay the city and other sewer fees.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com

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