The city of Tacoma plans to offer its own objections to two proposed ballot measures that would require a public vote before industrial users of large amounts of water would receive permits.
The ballot measures are the subject of a lawsuit filed Monday against the citizens group Save Tacoma Water by the Port of Tacoma, Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber and Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.
Tacoma was named alongside Save Tacoma Water as a co-defendant because the measures, if successful, would change city law. The city plans to defend itself against the lawsuit, city attorney Elizabeth Pauli said Tuesday. But it also will offer the court its own concerns with the proposals in a separate legal filing.
“To the extent that the issues raised by the port don’t adequately address the issues that the city sees from its perspective with the initiatives, we’ll be filing what’s called a cross claim to assert those issues and make sure that when the court is looking at it, the court ends up looking at all the issues,” Pauli said.
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As the administrator for the city’s water system, she said, “one of our concerns is that the initiative is too broad in its scope because it tries to change the administration of the water system, and that would be in conflict with state law.”
Pauli said if the lawsuit hadn’t been filed, she likely would have advised the city to file its own.
The water ballot measures grew out of an effort to stop what was proposed as the largest methanol plant in the world from locating on Tacoma’s Tideflats. That project, since abandoned, has led to calls for more transparency about large industrial projects.
City Manager T.C. Broadnax said Tuesday that city staff is working to develop better methods for notifying community members about proposed projects around Tacoma, and said they will work closely with the port to help improve communication on large-scale projects.
“We don’t want to add too many additional steps and hurdles, but we do want to have sufficient pause and community engagement and awareness and education so that people will understand what’s being proposed,” Broadnax said.