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New hotel coming to Grand Coulee


Last updated 7/8/2020 at 8:09am

Blackfly, LLC's new Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham in George is similar to the project in Grand Coulee. - photo from their website

A new multimillion-dollar hotel in Grand Coulee is being planned with optimism towards the area growing.

Blackfly, LLC, owned by Bill Stevens, a farmer from Soap Lake, and Caleb McNamara, a contractor from Moses Lake, bought property along Midway Avenue that includes Pepper Jack's Bar and Grille, another nearby building, and surrounding lots. 

The property consists of three parcels of land along Midway Avenue purchased from Norman and Carlene Worsham for $285,000 and a fourth purchased from Larry Maier for $250,000 for a total of $535,000.

They just finished building a 62-room Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham in George, Washington, built by McNamara's Medved NorthWest construction company. They intend to build a similar establishment in Grand Coulee.

"There's a need for a hotel there now and especially in the future," Stevens told The Star over the phone on Monday.

A "microtel" is essentially a small hotel. The one they want to build in Grand Coulee will be 65 rooms. Their property in George on Tuesday offered a single room for $120 on its website, including a breakfast, and listed a restaurant and bar among its amenities.

One challenge the pair is looking at is a city sewer line that goes through their property. 

They hope to reposition the sewer line in such a way that they could build the hotel back a ways from the street, something they'll have to work with the city to accomplish.

This scenario allows the restaurant to remain open while the hotel is being built, but eventually the building Pepper Jack's is in would be demolished, and the restaurant moved into the hotel.

If the sewer line cannot be moved, they will have to build the hotel closer to the street, which would mean the current restaurant building, as well as a green building across the parking lot from Pepper Jack's, would both be demolished sooner in order to build the hotel. 

The pair would also like to try to get a height variance from the city to build the hotel four stories tall, rather than three.

They "heard through the grapevine" that Pepper Jacks was for sale, and both said that a big potential project from Columbia Basin Hydropower helped them decide to build here. 

"The way the world is moving with clean energy, it's kind of a no brainer once you understand the logistics," McNamara said. "With that project going in, [the hotel] will be full the whole time."

Columbia Basin Hydropower's proposed Banks Lake Pump Storage Project would need over 1,000 workers to build over a span of several years (see sidebar).

Stevens and McNamara said they hope to break ground on their new microtel in the fall. If they do, the hotel would be ready for customers about July 2021, they said.


Banks Lake Pump Storage Project recap

The $1.4 billion Banks Lake Pump Storage Project, proposed by Columbia Basin Hydropower, would bring in an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 workers to build a gravity-fed, pumped-storage system that would drain water from Banks Lake back down to Lake Roosevelt, turning generators in the process to power a 500-megawatt power plant, and later pump the water back up to Banks Lake.

 The project involves placing one or two 35-foot diameter penstocks 300 feet underground in the city of Grand Coulee from the North Dam area to the Crescent Bay area behind the Grand Coulee Dam. 

Former manager of project development at CBH Tim Culbertson, now retired, told The Star in November that engineering and planning would likely take another two years, with ground possibly being broken in 2022 and the project finishing in 2026, when 100-150 permanent workers would remain. 

Culbertson said in 2019 that he was about 70% sure the project would happen. 

Easgtern Washington's members of Congress, including Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-4th Dist.) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-5th Dist.) have recently introduced the Hydropower Clean Energy Future Act, "a bill that aims to expand hydropower as a clean and renewable energy source and support innovation for the next generation of hydroelectric technology," Newhouse wrote in a recent column. 

That legislation would "modernize the licensing process for hydroelectric projects, expedite licensing for hydropower projects that protect or enhance environmental resources, and require a report that identifies ways Congress can reduce market barriers to the development of emerging hydropower technologies."

An amendment Newhouse and Rodgers, among others, were proposing for the recently passed H.R. 2, an infrastructure package, was shot down.

That amendment would have clarified jurisdiction over federal pumped-storage project development, giving the Bureau of Reclamation oversight when two or more reservoirs are involved and cutting the involvement of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, streamlining the process.

"This amendment would have provided regulatory relief to those building and operating water infrastructure projects throughout the West and beyond. Unfortunately, House Democratic leaders prevented its consideration," Newhouse writes in a column on the opinion page of The Star today.

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