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Wyckoff cost may be asset

"Five years ago, a citizen committee charged with envisioning a post-cleanup Wyckoff site proposed a development plan, believing they had no other choice.At tonight's city council meeting, a second committee will propose that the whole parcel go into public ownership - to be used as a park, relegating development proposals to a fallback position.Ironically, what makes public ownership a more realistic option today is the dramatic escalation in cleanup costs -- to as much as $150 million.The cleanup of an area fouled during decades as a creosote plant is being undertaken under the federal Superfund law. The name is something of a misnomer, because federal funds are applied only as a last resort; the Environmental Protection Agency is charged with recovering costs either from those who caused the mess, or those who would benefit from a cleanup. In this case, though, the only responsible party was Wyckoff/Pacific Sound Resources itself. It is reimbursing EPA the only way it can -- it transferred ownership to a trust, which is charged with selling the land and handing over the proceeds to EPA to defray the cleanup costs.But that won't do the job. Although the developable portion of the site -- some 35 acres of water-view property -- will be valuable, it won't cover but a fraction of the bill.Since the taxpayer is getting stuck, why then shouldn't the taxpayers get the maximum benefits? And plainly, maximum benefits flow from public ownership and use, not from private development of another handful of homes.Public benefit is particularly compelling with respect to two areas -- the shoreline, including the point where the creosote plant was located, and the far western portion, adjacent to the site of the 1942 forced evacuation of the island's Japanese-American population, where a memorial to that internment is now proposed.That may require, literally, an act of Congress. But we understand that our people in Washington - Rep. Jay Inslee and Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell - agree in principle with public ownership of Wyckoff.We're generally leery of pork-barrel legislation that benefits only a small constituency at great public expense. But this is different - the cleanup expense will be incurred anyway. The only question is whether the benefits will go to many, or to only a few. We urge our delegation to side with the many, and to act. "

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