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Whitewater park loses $500,000 grant

Thu., June 23, 2011, 3:47 p.m.

Apply again later, state board says

OLYMPIA — A state board in charge of money for recreational projects rejected a plea from supporters of a whitewater park in the Spokane River and refused to extend a $500,000 grant. The project will probably take longer than supporters say, and the city should return when more prep work has been done, the board said.

In a 6-1 vote, the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board agreed with a staff decision in April not to extend the expiring grant. Board members rejected the suggestion that doing so would kill the momentum for the project; instead they said the project should complete an environmental impact statement and obtain needed permits, then return to the board to ask for the grant to be awarded a second time.

Spokane City Parks Director Leroy Eadie said the next step will be to “go back and regroup” and try to find the $75,000 to $80,000 needed for the EIS. It might be possible to pay for that study with another grant obtained by Friends of the Falls.

“This is a little bump in the road. This project’s had a lot of bumps in the road,” Eadie said.

The project received $530,000 in June 2007, but has only spent $30,000 in that period. It is scheduled to prepare an EIS this summer to submit for permits in the fall or winter, start construction next summer and be open in the fall of 2012.

But board members said that’s a very optimistic agenda, because an EIS itself can take a year or more for a project that involves work inside a river. The proposed park would need to make some changes to the south bank of the river to create a wave.

“I like the enthusiasm. I like the vision,” said Steve Saunders, a board member. “I don’t believe the timeline is realistic.”

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