Camas sewer project prepares area for more homes

Businesses and a new school planned for Lacamas Lake area

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer

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CAMAS — Construction started last week on a year-long sewer expansion project that will allow for growth north of Lacamas Lake in Camas.

The sewer project will add 4.5 miles of new sewer pipeline and is expected to bring more than 1,000 new residences to the city, along with areas set aside for industrial businesses and a new school. Funding for the $12 million project came from water and sewer revenue bonds issued by the city.

“Back in 2007, the area north of the lake was annexed,” City Administrator Pete Capell said. “That happened just before the recession, and so then nothing happened. Since we got out of the recession, there’s a new interest in development out there.”

The biggest concentration of homes is expected to come from the Green Mountain subdivision, which is located at the former Green Mountain Golf Course. Capell said there could be around 1,000 new residences there, and some space for mixed use buildings with retail on ground level and residential up above in southeast corner of the property.

“You’re going to see homes being constructed in Green Mountain this summer,” he said. “One of the things they’re doing is they’ve got a temporary sewer to serve that area, and they’ve got water on the west end. They’ve been building phases of the subdivision now. They’re looking to start getting some building permits for homes this year.”

There is also the possibility for some other subdivisions in that area north of Lacamas Lake, Capell said, along with 260 acres for light industrial, which could be business parks or light industrial buildings. It’ll depend on what the developers of those properties choose to build.

Camas’ population is around 22,000 at the moment, and is expected to rise to 34,000 by 2035, Capell said.

Schools set to grow

More people means more space for students, and the sewer expansion will allow for construction of a new school, as well.

Voters in the Camas School District approved a $120 million bond in 2016, and $44.6 million of that money will go toward a replacement for Lacamas Heights Elementary School, which has just under 400 students at the moment, according to Superintendent Jeff Snell.

The school is just about at capacity. The new Lacamas Lake Elementary School, which is expected to open in time for the 2018-2019 school year, will have a capacity of 600 students. Construction on the new school is expected to start May 29.

While the city is doing work on the sewer, a water line is also being put in the ground that will extend to the new school, Snell said.

The Camas School District might not see a huge increase in population from the new subdivisions coming to Camas, though. Snell said most of the people who live around the Green Mountain area are outside of the district’s boundary, and instead those students will go to Evergreen Public Schools.

Evergreen Deputy Superintendent John Steach, who will take over as superintendent starting next school year, said the influx of new students could provide some complications for Evergreen. To start, Evergreen currently has about 26,400 students, and the district’s estimations show that could grow to 28,000 to 29,000 within the decade.

“The biggest concerns from the Green Mountain area would be elementary schools,” Steach said. “That area feeds into Harmony Elementary School. We have about 450 classrooms in portables across the district, and we’re hoping to not add anymore portables.”

Harmony has around 670 students, which is about as big as district officials want an elementary school to get, Steach said. He added that there has been talk of running a bond vote in spring 2018 to renovate or replace schools, and if they can’t bring too many kids into Harmony or Pioneer Elementary School, they might have to bus them to a different school.

That’s what the district did when a bunch of apartments popped up right near Endeavour Elementary School, but instead of stuffing kids into Endeavour — which has nearly 730 students — the district bussed them to Fircrest Elementary School.

Gov. Jay Inslee made things a bit more difficult for Evergreen on April 26 when he partially vetoed House Bill No. 1017, which would’ve allowed school districts to build outside of urban growth areas.

“We have to provide schools to homes outside of the growth management area,” Steach said. “Legally, we’re not able to build a school there.”

Steach said he did hear that legislators will continue to work on approving a version of the bill to help out school districts. In his veto message, Inslee said he was concerned about a few items he wants the legislature to work on, such as limiting the size and scale of any extension of urban services for a rural school to meet the long-term needs of the school and the land surrounding a new rural school must maintain its character.

“School districts must demonstrate that there is no suitable land available within the Urban Growth Area,” Inslee said in the message.

Construction plan

Back in Camas, worked started May 8 at the intersection of Northeast 19th Street and Northeast Franklin Street, and moved toward Northeast Everett Street. The construction workers are then going to jump over to Everett and Northeast 23rd to get out of the way of nearby schools while school is still in session, according to Sam Adams, utility manager for the city. The contract also states that the crews have to be off Everett before school starts back up in the fall, Adams said.

“It’s always a challenge to find time when you can get the work done and not impact people,” Snell said. “There’s not enough time in the day to meet everyone’s needs. The city has been really thoughtful about start and stop times and trying to make sure kids and parents are minimally impacted.”

Once the crew finishes on Everett, they’ll move to Southeast Leadbetter Road, and go down the north side of the lake to Northeast 232nd Avenue and cross through Camp Currie to Northeast Goodwin Road.

The project also includes a new pedestrian bridge crossing the Lacamas Lake and Round Lake channel, and three pump stations.

There will be some closures during construction. Leadbetter will be closed to local access from approximately September through January. There will be times where sections of Everett are one lane.