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Council member: plant delay is a good thing


Larry Holford sees the delay of Coulee Dam’s proposed wastewater treatment plant rebuild as a good thing.

“It will give everybody time to refocus their efforts and put together a better project than the one proposed,” Holford stated this week.

Holford is a town council member at Elmer City and has been following the project for quite some time.

He has been in the middle of discussions with the Colville Tribes, Indian Health Services, and Elmer City in exploring ways to build a cost-effective plant and locate it where it will do the most people the most good.

Currently the project has been derailed by the Department of Ecology. The agency told Coulee Dam in a recent letter that it would not fund a two-tiered approach to the wastewater treatment plant. The town had first proposed a $4.92 million project, and when it met strong opposition had tried to get its funding agency — the DOE — to go along with a two-tiered approach with the first tier costing about $2.6 million. In a letter, the DOE said no — that a two-tiered approach would cost more money.

In a subsequent letter, the DOE stated, “Please do not interpret our rejection of this scope change as a lack of support for the project.”

Charlie McKinney, section manager for the DOE, continued: “Ecology continues to be concerned that the plant suffers from several severe deficiencies in its electrical components, required redundancy systems and critical mechanical equipment. Although, we are not the permitting authority for the plant, we are concerned that the situation represents a significant risk to water quality in the Columbia River and should be addressed in an expeditious manner. Delaying improvements will increase the risk of environmental impacts.”

McKinney continued, “Ecology continues to be committed to assisting the town in solving its challenges with wastewater treatment and permit compliance. We understand that additional funding sources and partners such as the Indian Health Service are being explored. We will honor the current funding agreement we have with the town and remain as flexible as we can in our approach to new possibilities. As you know, the original completion date for the project was to be September, 2014. The latest this could be extended is July, 2016.”

“I am not convinced that the present site is the best place to build the plant,” Holford stated.

He is certain that the Colville Tribes and Indian Health Services will complete an alternative analysis to determine where the plant should be built.

He feels that a plant site up the river would provide a wider service to other entities and facilitate growth in the Belvedere area.

“The current delay affords time for the site analysis, and for a wider range of partners,” Holford stated.

Elmer City has objected to the proposed Coulee Dam plant, claiming it wasn’t consulted in the planning process and that its citizens can’t afford the sticker price.

“I think if we all get together on this, we will end up with a better plant; one not as costly and one that will serve more people,” Holford stated Tuesday.

The Tribes and IHS plan to seek grants to finance the alternative analysis, which will provide a better picture of where the project will go from here.

The lack of a thorough alternative analysis is what helped to delay the project in the first place.

Coulee Dam hasn’t publicly responded to the DOE letter and how it will proceed on the project.

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