Plans to build a giant tank at Glover Field as part of a required cleanup of the Spokane River are on hold after the Spokane Tribe of Indians objected to disturbing the land it considers important to tribal heritage.
City officials say they are considering alternatives that should allow them to meet environmental regulations requiring the city to nearly stop raw sewage from flowing into the Spokane River by its deadline at the end of 2017. They also still hope that the project will include a trail along the river to connect Riverfront Park to Glover Field.
“The vision hasn’t changed a bit,” said Utilities Director Rick Romero. “The obligation is still to clean up the river and to, second of all, develop some great public amenities.”
Rudy Peone, chairman of the Spokane Tribal Business Council, the elected body that represents the tribe, thanked the city for studying alternative sites for the tank in a letter he sent to Spokane Mayor David Condon on Dec. 19.
“We welcome your offer to honor the Spokane Tribe, and its connection to the Spokane River and the surrounding area,” Peone said in the letter. “The Tribe is certain that we can move forward in a positive way.”
Many parts of Spokane, especially south of the river, have sanitary sewers that also carry stormwater. When it rains or when snow melts, those pipes often get overwhelmed and divert untreated sewage into the river. Last year, 73.4 million gallons flowed directly into the river after sewers became overwhelmed.
Earlier this year, city engineers crafted plans to build a 4 million-gallon tank in Glover Field that could capture all the sewage that would normally flow into the river during rain from downtown and most of southwest Spokane. As part of the plan, the city would build a trail above pipes needed for the project along the river embankment, connecting Glover Field to Riverfront Park through Avista’s Huntington Park.
Romero said as a result of the concerns raised by the tribe, engineers are studying the possibility of building two 2 million-gallon tanks. One would be located on city land west of City Hall between Huntington Park and Spokane Falls Boulevard near the Monroe Street Dam. He said construction of the tank could create a new overlook for lower Spokane Falls.
The second tank would be near Glover Field. It could be built under city streets or on private land, he said. One option, which had been the preferred site before the city considered using Glover Field, is the parking lot for the Masonic Temple building.
The downtown and Peaceful Valley wastewater project would prevent about 40 percent of the sewage released from overflows from entering the river.
Glover Field is in Peaceful Valley, along the river just below Spokane Falls. The Spokane Park Board bought the land in 1912 and built bleachers for 10,000 people. It was the site for high school football games and other community events.
In 1925 and 1926 it hosted major gatherings of Northwest tribes called the National Indian Congress. But the area also is significant to the tribe because the area below the falls was a major gathering spot because of its proximity to the falls and fishing.
The tribe this year performed an archeological assessment on Glover Field and found several artifacts connected with the white settlers from the late 1800s, including a bottle and tools, as well as tools from much earlier periods.
Romero said the city has budgeted about $40 million for the project. The city plans to spend $150 million fixing all the sewage overflow problems.