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Cheney to buy piece of history

City Council approves agreement to purchase property overlooking Williams Lake Plunge Pool


The city of Cheney took one step closer to owning a piece of geological history.

The City Council authorized Mayor Tom Trulove to sign a purchase and sale agreement for the purpose of buying 15 acres of property overlooking what is known as the Williams Lake Plunge Pool. The pool is located just off Williams Lake road between Williams and Badger lakes, and used to be a large cataract area as a part of the larger Ice Age floods which swept through and carved a good portion of the area and Eastern Washington and the Central Basin over 11,000 years ago.

The ability to purchase the pool comes through Spokane County’s Conservation Futures program, which was originally set up in 1994 by the Board of County Commissioners and later firmly established through several voter measures. The program uses an annual property tax on assessed value to purchase land in order to “protect threatened areas of open space, timberlands, wetland, wildlife’s habitat, agricultural and farm lands, streams and water supplies within the county boundaries,” according to the program’s website.

Purchase of the plunge pool comes at no cost to Cheney. The Conservation Futures Program will pay the $115,000 selling price along with all closing costs and fees, and then turn the property over to the city, Parks and Recreation Director Paul Simmons told the council.

The city will work with the local Ice Age Floods Institute Cheney/Spokane Chapter on developing the plunge pool as a tourist attraction. Simmons said the Cheney area is known as the “Gateway to the Ice Age Floods,” are region that extends south into the Palouse and beyond, west to Wenatchee and southwest into the Columbia Basin.

“We’re not actually buying the pool,” Simmons said. “We’re buying a piece of property that overlooks the pool so we can work with the Ice Age Floods to develop tourism.”

The plunge pool is already a stop on a Ice Age tour set up by the institute, which has proven popular with locals as well as visitors from outside the region. Simmons told the council the Parks and Recreation Department has sponsored eight Ice Age Floods tours, none of which were ever canceled and all of which filled up quickly, adding that outside of Eastern Washington University, the Ice Age floods features are the biggest draw for outside visitors, something Cheney hopes to capitalize on.

“Purchasing this property brings us one step closer to doing that,” he said.

Once the mayor signs the agreement, the next step calls for acceptance by the county board. Simmons said the commissioners were briefed on the sale Tuesday and feel good about accepting it. After that it falls to attorneys to work out final details of the transfer.

Other council business was tied into several public works contracts. The council approved an $11,305 contract with Advanced Diving Services to do maintenance work on the city’s No. 4 reservoir. Some of the work to be done includes leak detection and repair, removal of sediment, filtration and dechlorination.

Councilman Fred Pollard asked Public Works Director Todd Ableman if divers were going to actually be going into the full, wet reservoir tank. Ableman confirmed they were, noting that doing the work in this manner was more efficient than draining the tank.

“If we have to drain a reservoir down then we don’t have that resource,” he said.

The council also approved a $46,900 contract with Quality Maintenance LLC to perform crack sealing on the city’s streets. Ableman said he estimated the work at between $2-$3 per lineal foot, with Quality Maintenance’s bid coming in at $2.90 per lineal foot over 14,700 feet.

The council also approved a resolution allowing Ableman to seek grant funding through the Spokane Regional Transportation Council for alternative projects including bicycle and pedestrian facilities, safe routes for non-drivers and safe routes to school projects. Finally the council approved a $28,401.11 consultant contract with Taylor Engineering for design work on the North Sixth Street Preservation Project, scheduled to begin this summer. The city received federal funding for the larger project last fall.

John McCallum can be reached at

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