A New 4-year Sewer Rate Plan Approved to Fund Critical Upgrades to the Aging Wastewater Treatment Plant

On March 2, 2021, the North Bend City Council unanimously approved a new 4-year Sewer Rate and General Facilities Charge (GFC) amendment.  City Council received public testimony during  the February 16th Public Hearing.

The Ordinance for the 4-year schedule includes a sewer rate annual increase of 2.5% for the years 2022-2025, as well as an increase to the GFC for new sewer connections in ULID areas.  GFCs will slightly decrease in non-ULID areas, though.

The necessary rate and GFC changes were determined by a Sewer Rate Study completed by consultant firm FCS Group and will fund Phase 2 of the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) High Priority Improvements project, estimated to cost approximately $24 million and financed through a 30-year, low interest bond.

Construction of WWTP Phase 1 – which began in 2019 – is 90% complete.  Construction of Phase 2 is anticipated to be complete in 2023.   

Councilmembers said they did not take raising rates lightly but were supportive of the need to make critical repairs and upgrades at the antiquated facility to meet today’s high safety and environmental requirements.

North Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant HPI Project Background

Beginning in late 2014 and into 2015, the City invested approximately $3 million in emergency repairs at the aging WWTP located adjacent to Bendigo Blvd/SR 202 near the South Fork Snoqualmie River on the west side of town.

In response, the City commissioned a comprehensive study to determine the full scope of long-term improvements that were needed at the 1950s era WWTP.  Unfortunately, years of delayed upgrades – dating back to the 1980s – had caught up with the WWTP.

In 2016, it was determined that to bring the near failing WWTP up to current safety and environmental standards, as well as add redundancy and capacity, a substantial investment – approximately $34 million – would be required, which was the least expensive of three potential options explored by the City at the time.

As defined by state law, the City’s sewer utility must be a self-supported enterprise fund, which means that sewer rates must fund utility operations and needed infrastructure improvements.

In 2016 the City also commissioned a sewer rate and sewer General Facilities Charge (GFC) study to determine what increases would be required to fund WWTP High Priority Improvements. Following multiple public meetings, in late 2016 a new 5-year sewer rate schedule to fund Phase 1 plant upgrades and related operations and maintenance costs was implemented. The average annual rate increase was approximately 9%.  Most of Phase 1 improvements – roughly 77%  – were funded by the GFC increase, remaining true to the City Council’s policy of ‘growth paying for growth.’

Phase 1 of the WWTP project is nearly complete and Phase 2 is 50% designed.  It is anticipated that Phase 2 construction will begin in summer 2021 and will take 18-24 months.

Phase 2 will add needed redundancy for operations;increase treatment and hydraulic capacity; replace remaining aging facility componentsand bring treatment processes into compliance with Department of Ecology’s high environmental and safety standards.

More information on the WWTP HPI Project can be found on the City’s Sewer and Water Systems website page.

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