Port Orchard city officials issued an emergency moratorium during the City Council meeting June 11 to pause all building permits that require a new water connection in the McCormick development area of the city.
The action was taken after the Port Orchard water department discovered the city is overextended on the number of water connections it has issued for parts of the McCormick development area.
As part of a facilities plan update undertaken by the city’s water department in 2017, outside water consultants who were hired by the city found that a combination of water storage capacity issues, a potential supply shortage and the need to upgrade Bremerton’s Anderson pump station to ensure uninterrupted water supply, has adversely impacted the areas served in McCormick’s 580 and 660 water-service zones.
“Now that we are aware that we have an issue in the 580 and 660 zones, we need to work hard to find a solution,” Mayor Rob Putaansuu said.
Putaansuu said the city’s first step is to make sure the water facilities problem isn’t compounded by continuing to allow new connections “when we are already beyond our maximum capacity.”
The moratorium to pause all building permits in the 580 and 660 service areas requiring a new water connection “is a necessary first step,” the mayor said.
He said the city is committed to finding a solution to the water issue so that the affected areas will have the necessary supplies it needs for both household and fire usage.
Compounding the issue is that Port Orchard and the city of Bremerton share a reservoir system. Port Orchard has wells to provide water for the shared reservoir and Bremerton has a larger well that supplies water to the 580 and 660 water-system zones.
Putaansuu said it is too early to determine when the moratorium will be lifted.
“We’ve got to come to agreements on what can get built and when,” he said. “It’s pretty fluid right now.”
Port Orchard’s mayor said he spoke with Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler on Tuesday and meetings have been scheduled for June 17. Affected developers also have been part of the discussions, Putaansuu said, and they will be involved in future meetings.
“We have developers affected and the connections are happening very quickly. There are planned improvements in the future and the housing market is pretty hot,” he said. “So, we’ve got to work collaboratively with the development community and the cities.
“This is probably our next big capital project for the city.”
He said the city is scheduling a public hearing July 23 to take testimony from residents about the moratorium.