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Cheney scores with state

Water treatment plant, railroad depot make budget compromise


Last updated 5/9/2019 at 4:13pm

Cheney made out well when the smoke and dust from the state Legislature’s budgeting process finally cleared with passage of the capital appropriations package on April 27.

While not everything in the Senate’s $136.3 million proposal for the 6th Legislative District made it through, more projects than what were included in the House’s $88.9 million offering survived the chopping block. In the end, the $95.57 million compromise had a little bit of something for just about everybody.

Including the city of Cheney, which saw its $2 million funding request to begin a reclaimed water project come to fruition. Originally in the Senate version, the money was not in the House’s list of projects.

“(State) Senator Jeff Holy was truly a champion of our project in the Senate as our project was included in their early draft budgets,” City Administrator Mark Schuller said in an April 29 email. “We would also like to thank Representatives Mike Volz and Jenny Graham for their incredible support in the House to ensure our project was funded during the budget negotiations.”

The money will help the city finish outfitting its wastewater treatment plant, built in 1994 and upgraded in recent years, with the necessary equipment to complete the water reclamation process. As one solution to its ongoing irrigation-water shortage problem during the hot parts of summer, Cheney is looking at constructing a re-use water piping system that would put discharge from the plant onto lawns at city and school district facilities.

“This is funding for a critical first phase of our plan to design and build out a water-reuse system,” Schuller said.

To do this, the plant’s treated discharge needs to be upgraded to Class A drinking water standards. Public Works Director Todd Ableman said the funding would enable the city to install a ultraviolet (UV) filtration system similar to what Medical Lake has been using for over 18 years on their effluent, which is discharged into West Medical Lake per an agreement with the state Department of Ecology.

Cheney’s plant currently discharges its treated water into wetlands located to the east, averaging about 2 million gallons per year. The water is subsequently filtered naturally, and is used to keep the wetlands healthy.

“The question is: Would taking about 1.5 million gallons of the discharge to the wetlands equation to use during irrigation season damage the wetlands?” Ableman said. A study done by Esvelt Engineering in 2007 concluded it would not, he added.

The system upgrade at the plant would only be the beginning of Cheney’s water reuse project, and the least expensive. Estimates range from $10 million to $17 million, with much of the expense coming from the piping system, which would need to be routed up hill to one of the city’s older, cement reservoirs for storage before flowing back downhill to irrigate city parks and school district athletic facilities.

Also making it into the 6th District’s final capital appropriations was $367,000 in grant funding from the Washington State Historical Society for relocation of Cheney’s Northern Pacific Railroad Depot. The Cheney Depot Society was awarded the grant in October 2018, contingent upon the Legislature fully funding the state’s Heritage Capital Projects program.

Like the reclaimed water funding, the depot relocation grant was included in the Senate’s 2019-2021 budget proposal, but not the House’s. Cheney Depot Society board member Sue Beeman said they got a call from Heritage Capital Projects manager Lissa Kramer last Tuesday, April 29, informing them the grant had survived the reconciliation process.

“She said, ‘I think it’s safe to break out the champagne,’” Beeman said.

Beeman said the state will begin writing contracts with agencies and organizations receiving awards, but can’t begin disseminating any funding until the start of the biennium on July 1. In between then and now, the Depot Society is going ahead with other aspects of the depot relocation, beginning with recently receiving an electronic copy from the building’s owner, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, of the conveyance contract indicating the railroad’s consent to give up title of the building.

Beeman said that’s a big step because it allows the Society to proceed with the transfer of land at 1st and Union streets from Sunshine Investments to the Society. The Society purchased land next door at 1st and I streets for the other portion of land the depot needs to sit on in October 2016.

“We’re taking care of some details as fast as we can,” Beeman said, adding that as part of the agreement with the railroad, the depot must be removed from its property by Aug. 31, 2019.

John McCallum can be reached at


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