BRIDGEPORT - One year after reaching an agreement with the state Department of Ecology over water rights access, the city of Bridgeport has received word the new water is about to come in.
Public Works Superintendent Stuart Dezellem told the city council March 28 that Ecology was "prepared and ready to process the water right application." The notice came from attorney Peter Fraley, who worked on behalf of the city in the lawsuit against Ecology.
Filed in May 2010 in Douglas County Superior Court, the lawsuit sought to settle a disagreement spanning more than two decades.
The debate began after the state Legislature passed the Claims Registration Act in 1967 to document water rights. Ecology determined Bridgeport was not compliant with the new law after the city filed a permit application instead of a specific form.
Since then, Bridgeport has been allocated only 500 acre feet of water per year, when Fraley estimated it should have been 1,282 acre feet. City officials argued that the limited water allocation prevented growth because there weren't enough hookups to provide to developers interested in building in Bridgeport.
In the April 2011 settlement, the city agreed to drop its lawsuit by the end of 2014 if Ecology approved more water rights. Ecology negotiated 1,099 acre feet of water per year, rather than the 3,000 initially requested by the city.
That extra 599 acre feet per year will come from the Lake Roosevelt drawdown, Ecology decided last month.
"The water from Lake Roosevelt appears to be... I'm going to call it a lease," he said. "The price is $35 an acre foot per year," a total of about $21,000. He said he would meet with Fraley to discuss the city's options.
Councilman Neil Jacobson asked if the city had to take all the water Ecology is prepared to hand over.
"I believe we would want to take all of that water," Dezellem said. "In our planning document, that's our 20-year growth, so I'm not sure we want to not accept all the 599 acre feet."
Code enforcement officer Ray Perez gave a report to the council on his progress.
"We have been doing great," he said, noting that two buildings will be removed, people are cleaning up solid waste on their properties, and six files have been closed since he came on the job in the fall.
About 14 files were open as of the March 28 meeting, some dealing with getting people to clean up trash on their property. Perez investigates possible city code violations on a complaint basis and receives about two reports per week, he said.
"We're actually creating a whole new process on how we're dealing with code enforcement, and more than anything, voluntary compliance," he said. "I actually go up to the doors and knock and talk to people about the issue. Most people are very receptive."
In some cases, if the property owner can't be reached the issue is turned over to the Douglas County Prosecutor's Office.
With summer in mind, the council unanimously approved a $3.50 credit card fee for people renting spots at Marina RV Park - however, the cost will be absorbed by the city this year.
During her own report, Mayor Marilynn Lynn said Columbia Valley Community Health is interested in opening a clinic in Bridgeport, providing medical and dental care on a sliding scale charge. She planned to meet with officials this week.
The community also won a campaign to keep Bridgeport State Park open year-round. The state had decided to close the park for four months of the year. Residents joined the city in writing letters to turn around the decision.
"They listened to the people," she said.
In other news, the council voted 3-0 to make the Wenatchee World its newspaper of record.
Lynn said the Herald's weekly status "ties [their] hands" in the event a legal notice isn't printed in the paper in time, the example being a public hearing on off-street parking that needed to be postponed until May.
"If we went with a daily paper... then we have a lot more flexibility when we are going to be posting notices," Lynn said.
"It is more expensive, but the benefit that we feel we will have is because things will be done in a timely fashion," said Finance Director Lisa Stark. She said the city must publish notice of a public hearing 10 days in advance; a deadline that can be inconvenient for the city when dealing with a weekly paper that goes to press before council meetings are held.
"Well, I hate to see it, but I'm going to have to support it," Jacobson said after council member Jackie Hentges made the motion.
The next council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. April 25.
Note: This article is corrected from what is printed in this Thursday's issue of the Herald. In the print version, during the discussion about the newspaper of record, Lisa Stark was reported as saying the Herald has a 10-day advance requirement for printing legal notices, when she meant the city must publish notice of a public hearing 10 days in advance. - Jennifer Marshall, reporter