Judge tosses out North Bend’s request to dismiss city from water lawsuit

The lawsuit seeking to stop the plan from being implemented will proceed.

A judge has tossed out a request by North Bend to have the city removed from an appeal lawsuit filed against the city over its water system plan.

In April, Friends of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and River filed an appeal of the city’s water system plan, which was approved earlier in the year by the city, King County and the Washington state Department of Health.

The lawsuit is asking a King County Superior Court judge to grant an injunction stopping the plan from being enacted, requiring an environmental review and placing a moratorium on development in the city until their concerns are addressed.

Court documents show that North Bend has asked the court to dismiss the city from the lawsuit, claiming that papers weren’t properly served. But on June 14, King County Superior Court Judge Patrick Oishi tossed out North Bend’s request for a dismissal.

Further, Oishi ordered the city to hand over documents outlining its administrative record when it determined that the North Bend water system plan did not need a full environmental review, according to court documents obtained by The Snoqualmie Valley Record. It marks a victory for Friends of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and River, and means the case will move forward.

“We want to clarify that the City did not file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The City’s motion was only to dismiss the City from Friends lawsuit. It is an important distinction. Our motion to dismiss the City from the case was based purely on procedural grounds related to past decisions in regard to process service procedures. Last week’s decision simply means the case will now proceed to a hearing with both the City and WA Dept. of Health (DOH) as respondents – instead of DOH alone. The Judge’s ruling last week in no manner addresses the merits of FOSVT’s case,” a statement from the city states.

Four copies of the original lawsuit were delivered to the city, according to court documents filed by Friends of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and River: the original petition that was delivered by hand to North Bend City Administrator David Miller, two revised copies that were delivered to two separate employees by hand, and a third that was sent by first-class mail.

The city is arguing that according to Washington state law, the papers were never properly served, and the lawsuit should be dismissed. Under state law, lawsuits must be delivered to the mayor, city manager, people designated by either of those officers, or the city clerk.

The city argues that because Miller is a city administrator, not a city manager, he was not authorized to receive the paperwork. It argues that city managers are a role held in strong city council cities, where a city manager is appointed by the council. North Bend operates under a council-mayor system, where the city administrator reports to the mayor, who is the head executive.

In a signed response from the professional server who delivered the first copy to Miller, the server states that Miller indicated he was authorized to accept the paperwork. Miller denies saying this in his response. Since North Bend’s city hall is closed to the public, Miller met him at the door.

In response to the city’s claims, Friends of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and River have filed their own response, claiming that their case is an appeal, and therefore mailing is a valid way to serve the city.

Friends of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and River, headed by longtime water activist Jean Buckner, maintains that the city should have a second source for backup water, as required by its well permit. When the city’s large Centennial Well came online in 2009, it was required to have two sources of water mitigation that could be used to put water into the Snoqualmie River as needed during hot, dry summers. The city’s well draws from aquifers which feed the river.

Since then, there have been negotiations between the city and neighboring Sallal Water Association to seal this deal, but to date, no agreement has been reached.

North Bend’s water system plan was approved, but only for five years instead of the usual 10 years. The shortened time frame is intended to give state regulators more leverage. If North Bend hasn’t made progress within the five years in securing a backup water source, the city will need to address it in another water system plan.

Buckner said the Friends of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail and River is prepared to continue the appeal. They were recently approved for a grant from Puget Soundkeeper Alliance to fund legal costs. The details of the grant haven’t been made public, but Buckner said it was a significant amount of money, though likely not all that would be needed.