Letters to the Editor
The Colville Confederated Tribes took the high-road regarding the overly expensive Coulee Dam Sewer Treatment plant project. The tribe offered to help, in exchange for involvement … for a legitimate place at the table. In a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the tribe stated that they would involve the Indian Health Service and bring a needed project review and financial assistance to help with the costs for this $5 million - $7 million project. This could reduce the cost impact for all of us — the native and non-native community alike. The tribe went so far as to suggest that they would work with the town AND the other regulators to review (and possibly relax) the discharge standards so that the Sewer Treatment Plant could continue to operate without permit violations… so long as there was a meaningful dialogue between the primary stakeholders (the tribe and the towns of Elmer City and Coulee Dam). The letter from the tribe ends with, “… we remain willing to cooperate and coordinate with them (Coulee Dam), and the other regulatory agencies, to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.”
Good news, I think (or thought)! Good news, most of us would think. Finally, an opportunity to do this thing right and maybe both get (and save) some money in the process. But, and again, no rational thinking in Town Hall! The town of Coulee Dam’s answer to the tribe (and the rest of us) was to immediately take the action necessary to move ahead with the $5-plus million project and to authorize the expenditure of about $400,000 for engineering services. They know well and good that a $2 million project will do the job just fine! So get ready for your $75- to $90-a-month sewer bills just to fund a growing arrogance and open defiance of the better public good. And do you know, the increased rates will include over $65,000 a year for things having absolutely nothing to do with the utility? In other words the town will profit, or additionally enrich itself, by over $2 million during the useful life of the facility.
The town was quick to ask the tribe for money, but quicker still to exclude them from any meaningful participation … again! This matter brings me back to a discussion I had with Mayor Snow (before the great rift) about coordinated tribal/town programs and actions: “Greg, you don’t understand how hard it is to work with ‘those’ people.” I wrote it off as just an ignorant comment from an arrogant mayor; given the town council’s action last week, I wonder if my dismissing the comment was equally wrong. Now I know, and shame on me!
The tribe has leverage, the tribe has authority, and the tribe is a co-regulator with the EPA. The tribe should exercise all of these tools to force what they could not achieve by reasonable protocol! Over 250 native families will pay a combined sewer rate increase of over, probably well over, $135,000 per year when less than half of that will build all we need! Then, too, there are those of us retired and on fixed incomes — how about us?
Recalls happen when arrogance evolves to malfeasance … just some food for thought.