Property owner says city staff failed to tackle sewage gripeWARRENTON - City commissioners gave the second and final reading on an ordinance to protect wetlands at their meeting Wednesday night, and in doing so may have closed one of the more contentious episodes in the city's recent history.

It was contentious at least for some landowners in Warrenton who felt that more stringent conditions for building on or near wetlands, or at least property classified as wetlands, would endanger their options for future development.

But the city has been under direct orders by the state to bring its comprehensive plan and development code in line with the state's planning goal 5, which lays out wetland protections.

And while appeals, a review of the ordinance by the state's Land Conservation and Development Commission and even lawsuits could prolong the issue, for the city, at least, it appears done.

Commissioner Jeff Hazen expressed his thanks to the city's planner Patrick Wingard for his efforts in bringing the city into compliance on the wetlands issue.

"This has been a long time coming and I'm glad to almost see it come to an end," he said.

Following the commission's reading of the ordinance, members heard a report from Jeff Harrington, an engineer with HLB & Associates, on work for the city's new sewage treatment plant.

Harrington said the final pre-design work has been completed for the downtown pump station. He said it will provide a regular flow of waste into the plant and replace two older pump stations downtown.

The pump station is just one of three major elements to the treatment plant. The other two are the outfall, or a large pipeline that will release treated sewage into the Columbia River, and the plant itself.

Harrington said work on the outfall is proceeding well and the firm hopes to do some geotechnical work on the project in February. Equipment bids could go out soon. These would be non-bidding bids for equipment supplies with a guaranteed price for about a year. When the treatment plant contractor needed to purchase machinery for the plant, the city could then ensure that the contractor only buys equipment selected during the bid process, he said.

And HLB is working on getting environmental permits for the projects as well.

"As you know that's always a big unknown," Harrington said.

Mayor Paul Rodriquez thanked Harrington for HLB's work on the project. "They have really been working hard with us to make this upgrade a reality," he said.

Earlier in the meeting, Astoria resident Don Webb, who owns commercial property on East Harbor Street in Warrenton, came before the commission to discuss a problem he's been having with sewage.

He said he had sewage come up from pipes into his building recently and he said he did not feel as if the city's public works superintendent offered enough help.

Webb said he was told to simply plug up a drain, and when he did that sewage started coming up through the toilet, resulting in about two inches of water on his floor.

Later after cleaning up the mess, he said he found that several residents have a backflow device in their plumbing to prevent such a mess.

"I think there should be some way I should be reimbursed rather than going through an attorney," he said.

The problem is the area's faulty pump station that can be overwhelmed by too much water coming in at the airport, Webb said.

His remarks came at the start of the meeting during a time for public comments unrelated to items on the commission's agenda. At the close, Rodriquez asked that residents with issues first take them up with the city manager rather than the commission.

"If you come to us, we just go to him," he said. And, after Webb had had his say on the matter, Rodriquez did say "duly noted and the city manager will take it up."

In other business, acting City Manager Jim Hough announced that the city will begin testing its tsunami warning siren on the first Monday of every month. The regular tests will begin Feb. 2.

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