County Commission Talks Goshen Sewage ‘Boondoggle’

Lane County continues to move forward with its attempts to develop the community of Goshen much to the dismay of local land-use advocates. Goshen, just south of Eugene, is a rural industrial area that has been home to several mills and is the site of designated wetlands. Developing Goshen has become a pet project of Commissioner Faye Stewart.

On Feb. 3, a wastewater feasibility study for Goshen done by Kennedy/Jenks Consultants was presented to Lane County’s Board of Commissioners for discussion.

The County Commission dubbed Goshen’s redevelopment the “Goshen Region Employment and Transition (GREAT) Plan.” In the summer of 2013, the commission adopted the plan, which would change zoning in Goshen to allow urban and light industrial development. This calls for an exception to Oregon’s Goal 14, which requires that cities separate land designated for urban development from rural lands.

According to Glenda Poling of the county’s Community and Economic Development division, who presented the study to the commission, the GREAT plan advances Goal 9,  which is economic development.

LandWatch Lane County filed an appeal of the Goal 14 exception with Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) in February 2014, and the agency found several areas the county needed to address: commercial facilities, wetlands and wastewater. According to the Lane County memo on the issue, LUBA said the “county must provide substantial evidence and make a sufficient evaluation of the feasibility of providing sewer service in a timely and efficient manner.”

The feasibility plan looked at three alternatives: connecting Goshen to the Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission (MWMC)’s sewer lines, creating lagoons that would store winter flows and discharge in the summer via irrigation, or using membrane technology that would discharge in the winter and irrigate in the summer.

All alternatives take into consideration transporting leachate from the Short Mountain Landfill to Goshen for treatment. That leachate from the landfill is currently trucked to MWMC.

Stewart says he is “personally pleased the feasibility study showed an adequate sanitation system can service the area.”

According to Lauri Vaccher of LandWatch Lane County, it’s telling that “the county’s plan for a regional employment center utilized a Portland consulting firm, paid for with a state-funded grant, to demonstrate compliance with Goal 14.”

The study was paid for by $50,000 in state grants and $25,000 “in-kind” funds.

She points out that although the state “had the authority to require the study prior to the county’s adoption of the plan,” it didn’t, leaving it up to Land Watch and 1000 Friends of Oregon to appeal. “If there had been no appeal, there would have been no study of the viability of serving the site with wastewater services,” she says. “How insane is that?” she asks.

Mia Nelson of 1000 Friends of Oregon says that it “looks like the elephant in the room has been defined more clearly — this is going be prohibitively expensive.” The study estimated a collection system for the wastewater would cost $6.9 million added to one of the alternatives: The sewage connection alternative would cost $4.3 million with unknown connection fees, the lagoons would cost $24.4 million and the membrane system $31.7 million.

Nelson says, “We also need to know how they will pay for this and who will pay.” She says, “One of 1000 Friends’ concerns has been the continued expenditure of public funds for this project without a plan in place to recapture those funds from the landowners who will benefit. They should not reap windfall profits at the public’s expense.”

Stewart says he anticipates most of the costs would be paid by the developers, potential fees from the creation of a sanitation district or even grants. He says the findings will now be given to legal counsel to address LUBA’s Goal 14 concerns along with materials on commercial sites and wetlands.

Nelson points to other sites that would cost less to develop, including 44 acres in nearby Creswell “ready to go for only $2.5 million.” She says, “This report just underscores what many of us have known all along: The Goshen project is a financial boondoggle that can’t possibly pay for itself.”

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