The Kennewick Irrigation District has decided the developer of the proposed Citadel Estates in south Kennewick can have irrigation water.
The board on Tuesday rescinded its April 19 vote that canceled the water right for Jose Chavallo's property on Thompson Hill just west of Panoramic Heights.
But it warned that could change if results from more geotechnical analysis show developing the hillside could create the potential for it to slide downhill toward a KID canal.
Chavallo, his attorney and a geotechnical engineer told the KID board that the risks were addressed in plans to build 38 upscale homes on the 24 acres.
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The project has raised concerns among residents in Panoramic Heights, who fear the development, along with irrigation for yards, could create enough load on the north-facing slope of Thompson Hill to cause a landslide into the canal, spilling water and mud and threatening parts of the Creekstone development below.
KID's Ed Everaert, manager of engineering and operations, advised the board in April to withdraw Chavallo's water right, based in part on statements of a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation engineer who said in a Feb. 11 letter that geotechnical analyses did not assure the slope would remain stable if the project were built.
But Lawrence Costich of Seattle, Chavallo's attorney, said Everaert's assertions contained "hyperbole" and did not reflect the entire contents of USBR engineer Chris Regilski's letter.
Costich said Everaert did not include in his subsequent April 21 letter to Chavallo explaining the board's April 19 action that Regilski merely was saying more geotechnical analysis was needed before he could recommend approving the development.
Costich also said Everaert's letter was "dishonest" because information that had been presented to KID by Chavallo's engineer, Mike Black, was not included.
Regilski, who participated by telephone from his office in Boise during the 90-minute discussion, restated his belief that a complete geotechnical analysis is needed.
There are risks, Regilski said, but there could be a way to make it safe.
Black described the slope stability analysis he did on the property in 2009.
And he noted he recommended that each home in Citadel Estates have weather tracking systems to control irrigation and that the entire subdivision have a water-tight collection and distribution system to direct excess runoff to a catch basin located north and downhill of KID's canal.
"The key issue is how much water do we expect to be introduced into the ground water. If the weather tracking systems operate properly, there should be no penetration below four feet," Black said.
"If this hillside is not safe, considering the constraints Chavallo is willing to put on it, there is no hillside in the Tri-Cities that is safe," said Black, who noted that he has been doing geotechnical work in the community for more than 20 years.
"We, like you, take seriously the issue of public safety,"Costich told the board. "But we believe there is no threat to safety."
KID's reversal on Chavallo's irrigation water right does not mean he can proceed.
Chuck Garner, a former executive with KID who works for the Bureau of Reclamation in Yakima and who attended Tuesday's meeting, said Chavallo's property still is classified as nonirrigable, but there is a process to change that.
The project also has a critical decision pending with the city of Kennewick. An application for a preliminary plat is before a city hearing examiner, with a decision expected Thursday.
-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org