ANACORTES — Tethys Enterprises has decided to withdraw plans to build a massive bottling plant here, according to a letter from Tethys to the mayor.
In a press release sent Tuesday afternoon from the city, Mayor Dean Maxwell says Anacortes will continue to look for development and job opportunities.
The Tethys letter is undated, and it was not clear how long the city has known about the decision. The mayor was unavailable for immediate comment Tuesday afternoon.
The proposal sought to build a 1-million-square-foot bottling facility that could use up to 5 million gallons of water from the city’s 55 million gallon-per-day allotment. The plant was planned to locate south of March Point near the intersection of Stevenson and Reservation roads.
In 2010, at the first public meeting about the proposal, City Council approved a contract to sell Tethys water through 2050, provided the company find a 30-acre or larger plot located within city limits or its growth area that had access to rail lines.
Since then, the community has been bitterly divided on the proposal at public meetings — pitting concerns about the environment and water resources, as well as questions about the facility and governmental transparency against the need for industry and jobs in the region.
Maxwell has defended his actions in helping bring the Tethys proposal to Anacortes by saying that the city’s municipal utility has an obligation to provide water to businesses that locate there, and he is head of that utility.
At a mayor’s candidate forum held in July, Maxwell said the contract was put in place to make sure the company sets up a local manufacturing facility here instead of transporting the water elsewhere.
Maxwell could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
At an Anacortes Chamber of Commerce meeting held last September, Tethys CEO Steve Winter said the facility would employ at least 540 people.
Maxwell’s press release Tuesday states that finding industry to create jobs remains a priority.
“The Tethys project was an opportunity for our community to provide living wage jobs, advanced technology, and a continued commitment to environmental sensibility,” he said in the press release. “While Tethys has decided to cease its efforts to locate a foodgrade beverage manufacturing facility in the City, the City will continue to look for other development and job creating opportunities.”
Maxwell said in his statement that the safeguards in the water agreement, including stipulations that the plant be located within city limits or growth area, worked as they were intended.
Winter’s letter said that while the project has “gained viability” over time, Tethys had a variety of reasons to terminate it. He also said he and his partners have been offered other opportunities elsewhere.
“Now more than ever there is a need for the sweeping environmental improvements and economic and social benefits our project offers to the beverage industry and our region,” Winter said in the letter. Messages seeking comment from Winter Tuesday afternoon were not returned.