October 17, 2012 | LXXII, No. 29

Council may talk on sewage plant issue

The town councils of Coulee Dam and Elmer City and their attorneys may finally getting together to work through questions about their 50-year sewer service contract.

Coulee Dam sent an invitation for Elmer City officials to join its council in a special meeting at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 7, for discussions. That date is not confirmed.

Elmer City has maintained that it is a partner in the Coulee Dam Wastewater Treatment project, not just a customer, and therefore should have been part of the planning process for the new plant.

Currently Coulee Dam’s engineers, Gray & Osborne, are proceeding with the design phase of the project, with an estimated cost of $4.92 million. The plant, as currently planned, would cause Coulee Dam residents to end up with monthly sewer rates of about $70. Citizen advocate Greg Wilder has been promoting a more modest version of plant upgrade, somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.2 million.

But those discussions have been expanded to include the Colville Tribes, Indian Health Services and the Bureau of Reclamation, as well as Elmer City and Coulee Dam.

A meeting that had been scheduled for Monday didn’t happen, but the parties are all working to see if the financial burden of the new plant can be shared, reducing the cost to individual users.

Coulee Dam Mayor Quincy Snow said last week that the design phase of the project is moving forward. Originally, the construction part of the project was scheduled for the summer of 2013.

Snow said current discussions with other entities could lead to a broader financing package, which would reduce costs to residents of both Coulee Dam and Elmer City.

He stated that Indian Health Services had indicated that it was looking into whether it could participate in the project since it was estimated that approximately 150-200 Indian families live within the project’s service area.

The Bureau of Reclamation was looking into whether it could curtail its own wastewater treatment plant within the Third Powerhouse at Grand Coulee Dam, transfer its needs to Coulee Dam’s plant and participate in some way in the cost.

Snow said that there are discussions going on with IHS engineers in even the plant design, and that if they can point out ways of saving money on the design, then he’s ready to listen.

“That could delay the project,” Snow stated.

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