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Ecology: newest sewer plant plan not in town's best interest Mayor intends to move forward

 


The state Department of Ecology disapproves of a replacement sewer plant plan that resulted from the contested 2013 election of the mayor of Coulee Dam.

In a July 1 letter to the town this month, Ecology had critical remarks about Coulee Dam’s current wastewater treatment project, developed after the new mayor insisted all the options had not been analyzed.

The letter was made available to town council members, by people outside of town government, in time for their meeting last Wednesday night.

The letter stated: “Ecology recognizes the need for a new or updated system, but also wants to recognize that the latest proposal may not be the most cost effective or the most appropriate for the needs of the Town of Coulee Dam.”

A nine-part summary concludes with the statement: “In Ecology’s professional opinion, it’s disconcerting that a municipality would abandon a sound proposal with reasonable costs and benefits for a proposal that is at risk for being overpriced, undersized, more O&M (Operations & Maintenance) issues for its operators, and doesn’t include as many likely required maintenance items necessary for their collection system and wastewater treatment plant to be reliable and functional. This choice does not appear to be in the Town of Coulee Dam’s best interest.”

The letter refers to the plan developed by former mayor Quincy Snow, the debate over which he lost the 2013 election.

The Ecology letter went to members of the Coulee Dam Town Council (though they hadn’t received it from town government as yet), engineer Dana Cowger, PE, Varella & Associates (the town’s engineering firm), the Colville Tribes, and Daniel Berman, USDA Rural Development Agency (the agency providing the loan for the project).

Elmer City Mayor Gail Morin was the first to raise the issue at Coulee Dam’s Wednesday council meeting. Elmer City sends its wastewater for treatment by Coulee Dam’s plant and is considering building its own when its contract is up.

Coulee Dam Mayor Greg Wilder said he disagreed with Ecology’s letter and that the agency was wrong in its assessment of the project, stating that there was just some disagreement on some technical issues.

“That’s not what I read,” answered Morin, re-stating the letter’s damning assessment.

Wilder stated that Ecology officials would be asked to come to the town to answer questions.

In a letter to the Department of Ecology dated Monday, Wilder asked Ecology to come to Coulee Dam for a public meeting to “explain” or defend its findings. He said the prior project’s engineering firm, Gray and Osborne, would also be welcome.

“From my perspective,” Wilder wrote, “I consider the process and content of the original 2010 facility plan as a conspiracy of ignorance and pride … mixed with a bit of malignance. In any case, the Town intends to move forward with our project under the rural Development agreement.”

On Thursday night, Morin advised Elmer City Town Council members of the letter and of the meeting the night before in Coulee Dam. Asked if she thought that the Rural Development agency would pull the loan in light of the Ecology letter, the mayor replied, “We’ll have to wait and see.”

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