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Tuesday, October 11, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Deal would end most litigation over Brightwater

Seattle Times staff reporters

King County proposed a $70 million settlement offer yesterday to Snohomish County officials that would end nearly all pending litigation against the future Brightwater sewage plant.

For more than a year, King County has settled Brightwater-related lawsuits and opposition from other municipalities with similar mitigation agreements totaling millions of dollars. All that remains is a lawsuit filed by the grass-roots group Sno-King Environmental Alliance.

Snohomish County will take public comment on the settlement offer Monday before voting whether to send the agreement to the County Executive's office for signing.

Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, calling the settlement a "good deal," said yesterday he will sign the document should it reach his desk.

Included in the agreement for Snohomish County is $70 million for public safety, habitat protection and community parks projects. Seismic and odor concerns also will be dealt with during the permitting process.

In return, King County gets assurances that its construction-permit requests, soon to be filed, will be dealt with in a fair and timely fashion. King County officials say construction of the plant at Highways 9 and 522 in Snohomish County must begin next year to be ready by 2010, when its pipelines to other treatment plants reach capacity.

"We've reached a final deal with every jurisdiction, government and tribe that is impacted by Brightwater — no small feat," King County Executive Ron Sims said yesterday. "Now you can say Brightwater will be built."

The agreement adds about $50 million to the project's earlier mitigation budget of $88 million for projects near the sewage-treatment plant and along the pipeline that will convey treated water to Puget Sound, said project manager Christie True.

True said planners are looking for ways to keep the costs within the $1.66 billion budget, adjusted for inflation.

Opponents in both counties lamented the proposed settlement.

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Snohomish County Councilman Jeff Sax, who leaked similar settlement documents to the public last week, voted yesterday against even taking the measure to the public for consideration.

King County Councilman David Irons, the Republican nominee running for county executive against Democrat Sims, continued to criticize the siting process and the agreement.

"Snohomish County got basically everything they wanted," Irons said in a news release. "We could have negotiated the same settlement a year ago without spending millions of dollars on lawyers."

Christopher Schwarzen: 425-783-0577 or cschwarzen@seattletimes.com

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