Engineers present multimillion dollar sewer project to Coulee Dam


Coulee Dam’s wastewater treatment plant.

About a dozen people who showed up for an informational meeting about a wastewater treatment plant project got assurances from two Gray & Osborne engineers that the extent of change was necessary to meet agency requirements.

Jeff Stevens and Dave Van Cleve of G&O stated that the different elements of the project were as low as possible in cost and would allow considerable growth.

The remodeling of the existing 40-year-old plant will likely begin in 2013 and take from 12 to 18 months to complete, with $5 million funded through a loan to be paid by doubling the sewer rate for 20 years.

Not all of those attending were happy about the $30-$35 up-charge in rates to fund the project.

Greg Wilder questioned the need for the extent of the upgrades proposed, and assumptions in the engineers’ report that support the size of the plant.

Wilder, who grew up in the area but spent a 45-year career in planning and public works in other areas, said the plans cite a non-existent growth rate and could be too ambitious for the small town.

“We actually have pared the project down some $1 million,” Councilmember Karl Hjorten stated.

Hjorten is best credentialed among council members on wastewater projects, having various licenses associated with them and as a builder.

“I asked a construction firm friend of mine that deals in bidding on these kind of projects to look ours over and he stated that he wouldn’t bid on it because he didn’t see how it was possible to build it for that,” Hjorten said.

Stevens has been with G&O for 19 years, and the firm has 120 engineers on staff, which indicates how involved they are in projects throughout the state, Hjorten offered.

The last changes in the present plant were made in 1976.

Gray & Osborne started the assessment process in 2004, will design the new wastewater treatment plant this year and construction will begin next year. Bidding will occur sometime in the last quarter of this year, the audience was told.

A series of questions from the audience on acidity factors, whether the project was too large for the town, and the cost of the several units involved in the project were answered by Van Cleve.

He said most units involved were about as small as you can buy and that cutting capacity in the design would result in little if any savings.

Wilder said engineers assumed town growth of 0.7 percent that neither the town nor county plan on. And he noted the design would include capacity currently handled by a small plant within Grand Coulee Dam, but the Bureau of Reclamation has not been asked about it.

Coulee Medical Center ER and Walk-In Care

Wilder said the current plant is meeting requirements very well and that no government agency has required the upgrades. And he said other funding options could be explored, including asking for aid from Indian Health Services, which funds such projects on Indian reservations. The east half of town lies within the Colville Indian Reservation.

Wilder has written a series of letters to the editor, and made frequent requests of city hall for documents about water rate issues and is publicly critical of leadership at town hall.

The town is getting a low-interest loan from a state revolving fund for a 20-year term.

One person asked how long the resident water bill will be spiked to pay the loan. “Twenty years,” was the reply.

“What about those who are on fixed incomes?” another asked.

Town Clerk Carol Visker stated that low income residents could qualify for as much as a 25-percent reduction in rates.

Hjorten said Gray & Osborne has a good record in community projects in all four local towns.

“One interim public works director in Eatonville stated: ‘I applaud them (G&O) for their professional approach and unbiased focus,’” he said.

Mayor Quincy Snow said the town is looking hard for grants to help with the cost of the project and to lessen the burden that local residents will carry on paying for the new wastewater treatment plant.

He said he was pursuing federal help on the project and asked people to contact their senators and congressional representatives to ask for support.


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