Sewer line through Reata Canyon off the table for right now

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldApril 29, 2014 

The idea of running a sewer line through Reata Canyon to support property recently annexed into Richland appears at this time to be off the table.

And that's good news to residents living around the canyon in unincorporated Benton County who worried about harm to the "natural jewel" that's home to many kinds of plants and wildlife.

The residents sent fliers to neighbors and started a Facebook page, among other efforts.

"We're just happy," resident Joel Hopkins told the Herald this week. "I went for a walk through the canyon the other night with my animals. It was a good feeling not to have to worry about it."

The canyon pipeline was being discussed as part of a larger sewer infrastructure project.

Landowners in two recently annexed areas -- including the Badger Mountain South area and about 140 acres in the Reata Road area -- are considering forming a local improvement district, or LID, to finance sewer infrastructure to serve their properties.

Recently, the Lakewood-based Nor Am Investment -- which owns the largest block of land that would be included in the LID -- "indicated that the schedule and process uncertainties surrounding (the canyon route) make it impossible for them to support an LID petition with this alternative included," according to information from the city.

Loren Combs, a representative of Nor Am and project manager of the Badger Mountain South master planned community, said, "We think there are other options available."

He described the canyon as "sacred ground" to the residents who live around it.

Property owners within the LID ultimately would foot the bill for the sewer work. The city would cover the upfront costs and be paid back by the landowners through assessments.

On its face, the canyon route would be cheaper than the alternatives because it could accommodate a gravity system instead of requiring a pumping station. But that doesn't factor in unknowns such as potential litigation.

The city council will need to sign off on the LID for it to go forward and also will have to approve the sewer route.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529; sschilling@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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