Cheney Free Press -

By Lee Hughes
Staff Reporter 

Medical Lake to tie into Spokane water system

 

February 21, 2019



The City of Medical Lake will be constructing a new intertie connection with the City of Spokane beginning this spring near Craig Road and State Route 902, officials said.

The nearly $500,000 infrastructure project will allow Medical Lake to tap into Spokane’s water on-demand for both a water emergency and for supplemental water. The cost includes connection fees charged by Spokane.

The intertie agreement was approved by the Medical Lake City Council in mid-June. In it, Spokane agreed to provide up to 600 gallons of emergency water per minute, for which Medical Lake will be charged $1.66 per 1,000 gallons of water used, according to City Administrator Doug Ross.

Spokane must agree that Medical Lake’s situation is an actual emergency, Ross said, such as a damaged Medical Lake water well pump.

“What they’re making sure of, and rightfully so, is that we aren’t using it for other reasons,” Ross said.

The emergency water is just that: an important back-up plan, according to Ross.

“That 600 gallons is huge for us. Huge. Especially what happened in light of Fairchild (Air Force Base), and Airway Heights and all the surrounding domestic and private wells,” Ross said, referring to contamination of municipal and domestic water wells by PFOA and PFOS chemicals, alleged to have originated from fire fighting foam used at Fairchild Air Force Base.

Medical Lake’s wells, which are tested regularly, have so far escaped contamination.

The agreement between Medical Lake and Spokane had been in the works for 14 years, according to Ross.

The supplemental water portion of the agreement, on the other hand, is open-ended. Medical Lake can use the supplemental water as it chooses, up to 200 gallons per minute. But what that use might be remains an open question; it’s up to the council to decide, Ross said.

But the intertie connection has had a secondary effect on another agreement, this one between Medical Lake and the Strathview Water District.

The two entities recently renewed a 20-year-old agreement for Strathview to purchase water from Medical Lake for the development’s 120 residential connections.

Approved in June by Medical Lake, and by the Strathview board earlier this month, the new agreement won’t be for another 20 years as Strathview wanted, however, but only three.

The eight-month delay was due to attempts by Strathview to negotiate with the city for a longer term, according to Dan Dorshorst, water manager for Strathview, and retired water manager for the Medical Lake.

But the city refused to negotiate at all, Dorshorst said, and Strathview finally capitulated.

The argument for the shorter term, Dorshorst said, was because Medical Lake wanted to take a wait-and-see approach to determine what their operating costs will be once the Spokane intertie is completed.

“The city hasn’t raised its wholesale price in 20 years,” Dorshorst said. “After they figure out what the costs will be then we’ll renegotiate.”

The new, shorter agreement charges Strathview a wholesale rate of 75 cents per 1,000 gallons of water used, according to Ross. The lower rate, he said, was because Strathview maintains its own water system; Medical Lake simply provides the commodity.

Medical Lake’s standard residential rates run on a sliding scale between $1.10 per 1,000 gallons up to 20,000 gallons used for Medical Lake residents, to as much as $2.25 per 1,000 gallons used up to 40,000 gallons for users outside the city limits.

Strathview and Medical Lake have had a water delivery relationship since the late 1990s. After Strathview’s own wells became contaminated, they acquired a $750,000 grant from the now defunct Farmers Home Administration, $250,000 of which they gave to the City of Medical Lake as their share of the cost to drill a new well near Craig Road and State Route 902, construct several miles of transmission line, and build a water reservoir at on top of Olson Hill, according to Dorshorst.

In exchange, the city agreed to provide Strathview up to 200 gallons of water per minute for 20 years, according to Ross.

He noted at a Jan. 15 council meeting that the city and Strathview were water partners due to Strathview’s lack of available clean water, like it or not.

“We’re probably tied to Strathview for life,” Ross said.

Lee Hughes can be reached at lee@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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