The Birchwood community, just beyond Eagle River, is identified in the Chugiak/Eagle River Comprehensive Plan as being a low-density area where residents provide their own water and sewer on large lots. This is a standard many of us have fought hard to establish and maintain.
Recently Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has directed the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility (AWWU) to support development of Eklutna Inc. property at the assembly-approved Powder Reserve area being developed in South Birchwood. Eklutna Inc. has already developed the Powder Ridge subdivision, which was provided with a waterline from the North Eagle River Vault of the Eklutna Waterline to Anchorage. This was done with a single feed line to that development.
The Birchwood Community Council (BCC) has been on record since 1985 as a NO WATER AND SEWER area. Residents attended many meetings with the Municipality to actively establish a Comprehensive Plan identifying Birchwood as a Low Density Rural Characteristic Community. In order to preserve this, we know keeping water and sewer out is ESSENTIAL, because Individual property assessments were estimated at the time to be in the $100,000 range for bringing the waterline through our area.
In 2006 the Assembly reviewed and renewed our Chugiak / Eagle River Comprehensive Plan that maintains NO WATER AND SEWER in Birchwood low density area.
The Municipality, after an out-of-court settlement with Eklutna Inc. over methane gas at the Eagle River land fill, has decided to assist Eklutna with water and sewer infrastructure to develop the Powder Reserve area at South Birchwood.
Dutifully, the wholly owned AWWU municipal utility says the ONLY WAY they can provide water service to Powder Reserve is to create a multimillion dollar Redundancy Loop transmission water line through Birchwood. This will force water lines and property assessments on Birchwood in direct violation of the Comprehensive Plan. This three-mile line would only serve the Eklutna Inc. Powder Reserve high density development of approximately 1400 homes.
How can it be that the adjoining Powder Ridge subdivision is not served by an additional transmission line–but by a single feed from the North Eagle River Vault–but the new subdivision must be? The two subdivisions are bisected by Eklutna Park Drive.
The BCC has discussed means for AWWU to provide water to the Powder Reserve Subdivision by a direct waterline from the North Eagle River Vault without installing the multi-million dollar transmission waterline through Birchwood. Many believe they should be able to do it the same way they already did to serve Powder Ridge Subdivision–keeping Birchwood free of the Forced three mile waterline Extension from Chugiak High School Vault as currently proposed. It is clearly unnecessary to install that “redundant” waterline at this location.
Perhaps there is a financing issue that is driving this. The Municipality would like the tax revenue gained by the sale of those properties to the public. Perhaps Eklutna Inc. would prefer not to fund those same water lines through their own property. If the Municipality VIA an AWWU tariff installs those lines, the Municipal budget doesn’t have to fund it. Will AWWU fund this development? If ratepayers of Anchorage foot the bill for this unnecessary line, very little of this money will be returned to AWWU through property liens.
The Comprehensive Plan gets in the way. The Mayor and AWWU must ignore the Comprehensive Plan to FORCE a waterline through Birchwood; ramming it through a community steadfast against any such water service in our low density neighborhoods.
My suggestion is to let the developer carry the cost of their own water lines within their subdivision, not the ratepayers of AWWU. Once we subsidize Eklutna for water service to its subdivision you may be certain that sewer service will follow. With our current economic climate we cannot know how long it will take for this expense to be paid off.
Certainly other water districts in Anchorage have needs for the money from that unnecessary multi-million dollar proposed extension. This high density housing development should pay its own way.