Waterless in South Kitsap

I woke up this morning in my usual fog, so it took me a minute to realize no water was coming out of the tap I’d just turned on.

I went out into the kitchen. “Did we forget to pay the water bill?” I asked my husband.

He checked on the neighbor’s house and found they had no water either. Nor did our friends down the street.

I looked on the City of Port Orchard Web site, and there was the answer: a water main break in McCormick Woods, leaving more than 800 people without H2O, the cause as yet unknown. I suddenly had a burning desire to brush my teeth.

Earlier, public works staff couldn’t estimate how long it would take to fix the main. Just minutes ago, the city updated the post to say water would be back on about 11 a.m. We’ll get by until then. There’s juice in the fridge. My fellow journalists will have to put up with me, un-showered. Sorry guys.

Turning on the tap for clean water is something we may take for granted, but according the UNICEF, 1.1 billion people worldwide only have access to unsafe water sources.

The federal Clean Water Act was passed in 1972. This year one of its mandates has trickled down to the City of Port Orchard, which will join Kitsap County and neighboring cities in developing a storm water management plan. Upgrading systems, building new facilities and setting up a schedule for maintenance and operations are among the tasks the city must accomplish to be in compliance with state and federal law. Implementing the plan is expected to cost the city $1 million over the next six years with the self-sustaining storm water fund to be covered by rate payers and, hopefully, grants.

Yes, that means City of Port Orchard residents will get a new utility bill as the storm water program is implemented. (McWoods gets its water from PO. As county residents, at least for now, we pay our storm water fees to Kitsap County.)

Port Orchard’s storm water rate for single-family homes has been suggested at $7.50 per month. Business, commercial and public property rates, however, have been estimated at $130 per month per acre of “impervious surface unit.”

Mayor Lary Coppola expects push back from the public. At a recent work-study session with the city council, he said he wanted to make clear that the city is operating under mandates from the state’s Department of Ecology and subject to sanctions if they don’t comply. The city is already behind schedule for implementing the storm water plan.

The suggested rates are really just a starting point for the council’s discussion of same, which will take place early in 2009 with a public hearing before amounts are finalized.

The city has yet to firm up estimates of cost and revenue, which will dictate rates. So stay tuned. Mark Dorsey, Port Orchard’s new public works director, said at the work study that budgeting for the new utility would be challenging until the city has conducted an inventory of its current system and inventoried the total amount of impervious surfaces to be assessed. (That’s how I put it in today’s Kitsap Sun article.)

What Mark really said was until those inventories are completed, the city is working with “scientific wild-ass guesses.”

My thoughts: Well, at least it’s better than unscientific wild-ass guesses.

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