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Four agencies meet on solving plant funding

Citizen’s push making a difference


Coulee Dam resident Greg Wilder, who has opposed the extent of Coulee Dam’s proposed wastewater treatment plant upgrades, has become an ardent advocate for ratepayers who would have to pay for the project.

The $4.92 million project is bloated, Wilder claims, and could be built for substantially less, maybe for as little as $2.2 million he says.

However, the town continues to move ahead with the design of the project, using Gray & Osborne engineers.

Now Wilder is trying to assist in putting together a package of financial backers to lessen the load on ratepayers in Coulee Dam and in Elmer City, which contracts with Coulee Dam for its waste disposal.

Last Friday, officials from both towns, the Bureau of Reclamation, and Indian Health Services met for the second time to discuss how and if the agencies could participate in the financial obligations for the new plant. Then the parties toured the Bureau’s wastewater treatment plant in the Third Powerhouse at Grand Coulee Dam.

Wilder said the Bureau reported it spends about $100,000 a year on the operation of its plant, plus set-asides for equipment repairs and upgrades. He envisions that the Bureau could find a way to divert these expenses to the Coulee Dam treatment plant and terminate its own plant.

Indian Health Services is interested in the project, Wilder notes, because the Coulee Dam system serves from 230-250 Indian families, making it possible for IHS to participate in some financial way.

While Wilder hasn’t given up on convincing Coulee Dam that it could scale down its plant size without losing efficiency, he has become a strong advocate for the rate payer.

He envisions that through a combination of tweaks and cuts and added partnerships, monthly sewer bills could be held to $49 a month. Officials currently project a $70 monthly bill with the upgrade project. Wilder pegs it at $87.

Coulee Dam officials have learned that Wilder won’t just go away, and are listening more closely to what he has to say. At least he is part of the mix when the subject of wastewater treatment comes up, and he was asked to attend last Friday’s meeting.

Wilder said the IHS’s expressed goal has been to contribute and find funding for two-thirds of the total project cost from grants and other non-loan sources.

He has asked is that Coulee Dam officials step back, take a second look, and work harder on getting additional funding partners so that ratepayers will get some relief from the heavy prospects for the future.

Coulee Dam Mayor Quincy Snow expressed his appreciation for all those who are attempting to help with the funding, but the town continues to develop the design of the larger plant.

Elmer City officials have been more adamant, with Mayor Mary Jo Carey declaring “Our people just can’t afford those kind of monthly rates.” It has been estimated that Elmer City residents would be paying $70 monthly sewer bills, and Elmer City has said it would end its participation in the joint plant.

A meeting of the two town councils and their attorneys has been proposed for next month.

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