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Airway Heights well aids Four Lakes area

Airway Heights has reduced the amount of water pumped from one of its wells to help neighboring Four Lakes Water District weather the dry season.

Public Works director Brian St. Clair said the Airway Heights Park West well draws from the same aquifer used by about 160 Four Lakes customers, along with Medical Lake and Fairchild Air Force base customers.

“Think of it as a big bowl with four straws,” he said. “We’re not sucking so hard right now in the hopes of helping Four Lakes make it till fall.”

According to city administrators, Four Lakes has been dealing with drastic shortages for months and now has just 25 percent of the underground water supply it did this time last year.

St. Clair said there is no solid study showing precisely where water is under the West Plains but that the completion of the Airway Heights wastewater reclamation plant by spring of 2011 will add to the area’s well water by treating about 1 million gallons a day. Reclaimed water will either recharge the aquifer or be shipped to large consumers, curtailing the use of fresh water and possibly helping dry areas like Four Lakes.

St. Clair said phase 1A of the reclamation project is on schedule and about 35 percent complete as of last week.

Gov. Chris Gregoire and the state Department of Ecology recently certified nearly $23 million in federal stimulus funding for phase 1B, making it the first clean water project in the state to receive Recovery Act dollars.

In a press release issued last week, Gov. Gregoire said the project is estimated to bring more than 200 jobs to the area while it “protects the health of the Spokane River and conserves and reuses water in a water-short community.”

In other Airway Heights news, a public hearing scheduled to coincide with the July 20 regular City Council meeting was canceled. The hearing pertained to an ordinance requiring protective headgear for operators of motorized transportation devices younger than 16 within city limits. City manager Albert Tripp said the ordinance has gone back to the police chief for revisions before being discussed further.

Monday did see council approval of a third amendment to the city’s memorandum of understanding with Spokane, previously amended March 2 and May 4.

“This extension gives us time to work out the details of an inter-local agreement,” said city attorney Stanley Schwartz, referring to the annexation involving Airway Heights, Spokane and Spokane County.

The City Council also confirmed appointment of five Lodging Tax Advisory Committee members for terms of one to two years. This committee keeps the City Council up to speed on tourism and oversees the lodging tax fund, which amounts to about 40 cents a night per rental room. This is the primary source of city funding for tourism-related promotions.

Lisa Pederson, wife of Mayor Matthew Pederson, is on the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee and is a member of the Airway Heights Festival Association. She thanked the council for approving use of a fund that has dramatically increased the festival’s treasury from $2,500 in 2000 to nearly $22,000 for this year’s festival, taking place Aug. 7 and 8.

Joe Martella, the city’s mayor in 1983 and then again 1989, was honored by the council for contributions to the parks department over the years. While mayor, Martella was integral in bringing the Airway Heights Corrections Center to town, as well as expanding the city through annexation and new housing developments.