What should a small city do when the price tag for a wastewater treatment plant upgrade is beyond their means?


The City of Stevenson is a small city on the northern bank of the Columbia River in Washington State. Home to the Skamania Lodge, sailboarders, hikers, brewers and rural folk, the town faced a big problem. Their wastewater treatment plant was failing compliance tests for effluent water quality, and the engineering report for an upgrade estimated nearly $14 million to upgrade the plant. For a town of 1,500 people, it was too much.

The Center for Sustainable Infrastructure assembled a team to help the city find alternative, more affordable approaches that just might generate more benefits for the community, too. Our tool: value planning. As part of that team, my role was to facilitate the value planning workshop and manage our team’s work.


  • Working with the town’s economic development lead, organized site visits to the wastewater treatment plant, Skamania Lodge, and several of the breweries and distilleries.
  • Designed and facilitated the one-day-long value planning workshop
  • Assisted with finalizing the technical report prepared by our team’s experts


By enlarging the boundary of our investigation to include the whole city and environs — not just the treatment plant — new and innovative solutions came to the fore:

  • Most surprising and rewarding: brewers were delighted to be part of the value planning workshop and offered many good ideas, thus beginning to heal a rift between the city and the brewers
  • A multi-pronged approach to wastewater treatment and reuse came out of the value planning workshop, including technical solutions at the WWTP, economic development solutions for the town, the Lodge, and the brewers
  • The final report identified several opportunities for cost reduction and revenue generation for the city