Vancouver has received $22.8 million in federal earmarks since 2008, and a proposed legislative agenda revealed Monday has the city seeking $5.3 million in 2011.
The money is spread across four projects: $800,000 for a downtown to waterfront trail connection; $500,000 for increased water transmission capacity to east Vancouver and the new SEH America expansion site; $3 million for a waste-to-energy recycling system at its Westside Wastewater Facility; and $1 million for improvements on 137th Avenue.
But the lobbying agenda, which won’t be finalized until the end of January, left some on the Vancouver City Council with more questions than answers.
Councilors told federal lobbyist Joel Rubin of Portland-based Conkling Fiskum & McCormick they had concerns about a lack of knowledge surrounding plans for water line expansion to east Vancouver and SEH’s planned expansion on the former Hewlett-Packard site.
Water capacity to the site and to other locations would go from 1.44 million gallons daily to 4.2 million daily. Estimated costs are about $4 million.
“We haven’t discussed in council … (increasing) the amount of water to SEH,” Councilor Pat Campbell said. “Our former city manager (Pat McDonnell) was involved, and now he’s at SEH. I don’t think I can back that at all at this time; it has ethical and other issues.”
City Manager Eric Holmes said that the water expansion will benefit residents and other potential business growth in east Vancouver, not just SEH. The project was approved in 2007 as part of the city’s comprehensive water plan, he said.
In August, the city committed to a $1.1 million loan to buy 4 acres in the Oakbrook neighborhood and develop wetlands to increase the area’s ability to handle stormwater and consequently allow SEH to expand. The deal will also help the city meet state and federal water quality requirements unrelated to SEH’s expansion plans.
Councilor Jeanne Harris also pointed out that the city should create standards on how businesses like SEH should treat their outgoing water before they have an increased incoming water capacity.
Councilors also called for more information on a proposed $7.7 million waste-to-energy project that would convert to electricity ash from burnt, treated sewage at its west side facility.
That item was also on last year’s legislative agenda but did not receive funding, Rubin said.
Help from the state?
A state legislative agenda, also presented Monday by city lobbyist Mark Brown, included few budget requests, and mostly focused on the city holding its ground.
Not much money will come from the state, Brown explained, as the Legislature grapples with closing a projected $5.7 billion deficit in 2011.
Brown said that the state’s transportation budget has a $1.5 billion gap between projects on its current rolls and its actual budget, meaning he will have to fight to keep Vancouver projects on state plans.
Other top goals include asking for $500,000 to help the city design and plan a waterfront park, and lobbying for regulatory relief and flexibility, he said. Greater regulatory flexibility would mean the city could tap money in a fund that is currently legally restricted for one use — say, tourism — and use it to pay for another function, like public safety, for example.
“I’m excited, to the extent you can be excited for anything in this climate,” Brown said. “This would be an opportunity for the Legislature to help us without giving us money.”
Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.