PSC to review new engineering agreement
The Pocahontas Public Service District (PSD) met its deadline of January 10 to submit a new engineering agreement for the design of a Snowshoe area sewage system to the Public Service Commission, along with an explanation of why the new agreement is in the public interest.
PSD attorney Chris Negley filed the petition on behalf of the PSD on Monday.
If approved, the PSD will pay $938,000 to Waste Water Management, Inc. (WWMI), to design a comprehensive upgrade to the Snowshoe area sewage systems, and an additional $132,000 for services during 12 months of construction.
The PSD held a work session and a special meeting on January 5 and 6 to hammer out details of the agreement with David Rigby, WWMI president.
Board president Tom Shipley and board member David Litsey voted to approve the agreement, while board member Amon Tracey abstained. Tracey has maintained that the PSD should move forward with Thrasher Engineering's plan to build a large capacity, $25.5 million plant on Snowshoe Drive.
Thrasher designed a 1.5 million gallon per day plant, to be built at the bottom of the mountain on Snowshoe Drive, that many Snowshoe area residents claim is too large, too expensive and a danger to the environment. Thrasher received nearly $1.5 million for work on the project, according to Tracey, and was invited, but did not submit a proposal for the new project.
Rigby stated during public briefings last summer that Thrasher's plant, with a capacity nearly three times the average maximum sewage flow in the area, is illogically large. In a footnote to the PSD's petition, Negley noted that Thrasher reported to a funding agency that development plans for the valley were unknown.
"In other words, there exists little or no explanation for why such a large plant was required," Negley wrote.
In the PSD petition, Negley wrote, "the previously proposed project at Site 7 grew to more than $26 million without final design or the necessary permits to operate the facility. The new plan accomplishes the goals of the PCPSD to be in compliance and to serve existing and future customers for approximately 40-percent less. This is real savings for the actual ratepayers who the PSC authorized the PCPSD to provide wastewater services."
Rigby told the PSD board last summer that Thrasher's plan to build a pipeline to carry all of the resort's wastewater down a steep slope to the Linwood plant, posed an "unacceptable risk" to the environment.
Negley wrote in the petition: "The environment is the basis on which the county's economic vitality depends. No large population base exists for service or professional jobs nor is there a large manufacturing base for labor jobs. Additionally, it lies in a remote mountainous area, devoid of any interstate highway. People come to Pocahontas County because they want to, not because they have to. The number one draw is simply the scenery and the plethora of enjoyable outdoor activities that revolve around clean water trout streams, rivers, caves, waterfalls, springs and our reputation for ensuring they remain pristine. The new engineering agreement will allow the PCPSD to avoid an unacceptable risk to the county's health and economic vitality."
Snowshoe Mountain, Inc., and five area landowners filed a complaint with the PSC, seeking to force construction of Thrasher's design. Some have expressed concern that a new design will not provide for development in the valley.
The PSD claims in its petition that completion of a project at Snowshoe Inn, begun by Snowshoe Water and Sewer, would provide treatment capacity for the valley six times what is currently needed:
"[C]ompleting the new 'previously designed SBR structures' and their ancillary facilities installed by Snowshoe Water and Sewer behind the Inn at Snowshoe will provide a treatment capacity of 110 thousand gallons per day. This capacity is more than six times the average daily flow in the valley as well as more than six times the maximum peak flow anticipated. The PCPSD believes that this can be done with much less of the environmental risks required under the previous 'Site 7 only' plan, thus freeing up the assimilative capacity available in the valley at a fraction of the cost."
The agreement calls for WWMI to provide firm cost estimates for its sewage system during a February 9 hearing on the Snowshoe Mountain complaint. Rigby has maintained that his design will cost from $10-12 million less than the Thrasher plant, primarily because wastewater is treated nearer its collection point, rather than at a facility more than a mile away.
The PSC plans to stream the February 9 hearing live on the internet, beginning at 9:30 a.m. A link to the webcast can be found at http://www.psc.state.wv.us/webcast/default.htm.