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State won't fund smaller sewer plant project

 


Coulee Dam’s wastewater treatment project is apparently dead, at least for now.

The town’s plan to build a $4.92 million plant was derailed by objections from town residents, and the council’s decision to go for a less expensive first phase was shot down by the state Department of Ecology.

Council members appeared stunned last Wednesday night when a letter from the DOE, the lending agency, stated that the town’s interest in a scaled down project was denied.

“To change the scope of a funded project after it has gone through a statewide competitive process of scoring and ranking, Ecology must make a determination of how the new proposal might have fared during that previous ranking process,” DOE Water Quality Section Manager Charlie McKinney explained in a letter. “This is a subjective decision and it can be questioned and challenged by entities that did not receive an award because they were ranked below the cutoff for available funding.”

McKinney went on to say: “In Coulee Dam’s case it is questionable that an application based on the phased project would have scored as high as the original application, and possibly not high enough to be ranked within the list of funded projects.”

The town council awaits a full explanation of the denial from the DOE, forthcoming in a few days.

Activist Greg Wilder, whose opposition to the way Coulee Dam has planned the project, is a candidate for mayor.

He has maintained all along that the town’s engineering firm, Gray & Osborne, didn’t do an alternative analysis of the project, determining if the location and scope of the wastewater treatment plant proposal was what the towns being served needed, or even wanted.

Wilder has suggested that a possible relocation of the plant site might allow a regional approach to the wastewater treatment need, involving Elmer City and areas beyond. That has never been determined, Wilder stated to the council. A thorough alternative analysis would determine that, he has maintained all along.

The next step for the council is to decide whether it wants to essentially start the process all over, and begin by ordering a comprehensive alternative analysis. This would clear the way on location, scope, and whether the plant should have regional possibilities. The decision to wait until the upcoming mayor’s race between Wilder and present Mayor Quincy Snow is concluded could provide some time for the issue to rest until the project can get a full review.

Indian Health Services and the Colville Tribes have an interest in the project, but have stated that an alternatives analysis must be done before they would pursue participation.

The town, in its request for an abbreviated project, stated that it would complete items in its tier-one list, then do the rest of the project later. The DOE didn’t like this approach and stated: “The town’s recent proposal indicates the modified phased approach would also be more expensive in overall project costs from the original, approved project design. … all the deficiencies identified in the town’s wastewater facility plan should be addressed within one construction project.”

 

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