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Truth about Highlands’ well | Letter
I am compelled to clarify a number of misconceptions and errors made by people over the previous year regarding the drilling of wells in the Orcas Highlands.
The idea of drilling wells was initiated by the Eastsound Sewer and Water District (ESWD) board and approved by their entire board. No single person was responsible for this decision. The goal was straightforward – to find a local source of water for the Highlands and separate them from Washington Water Services in order to devalue the water system so ESWD could buy it. This takeover was the primary intention of the Annexation voted upon by Rosario, Vusario, Otters Lair and Highlands residents on February 22, 2008.
When the Highlands Board was approached by ESWD the idea was agreed to only under the strict stipulation that the Highlands would bear none of the expenses. This was a risk investment made by ESWD. If water of sufficient quantity and quality was found, then the residents of the Orcas Highlands Association would vote to accept ESWD as the purveyor of water for the community. Contrary to the misinformation, there was indeed a “contract” clearly spelled out as a “Memorandum of Understanding” (a legal agreement) dated October 27, 2009 and signed by both parties.
Unfortunately, the drilling failed. The water located was found to be contaminated with E. coli and unsuitable. The project did not meet the requirements of the memorandum and therefore carried no further obligations on either party. ESWD did invest $90k in the process but it has not been worthless. They own the rights to the well and have a lease to the land. Perhaps this will not bring revenue in the near future, but I can imagine the investment will turn out to be very profitable as water sources on the island become scarce while demand increases.
As the past President of the Orcas Highlands Association, I can explain the agreement accurately and clearly. There is no reason to blame ESWD or the Highlands Board for a situation in which both acted with the best intentions.