Voices

Plans to restore the Saltese Flats in motion

Spokane County commissioners voted recently to move forward with a wetland restoration project on the Saltese Flats south of the Spokane Valley city limits without the participation of the city.

The 100-year flood plain map that has been submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for approval is only for phase one of the county’s project, said county Utilities Director Bruce Rawls. It involves rechanneling runoff that comes off Mica Peak to restore the wetlands, he said.

“We tried to get coordination with the city of Spokane Valley, and we were not successful,” Rawls said. “We made a decision to just do it.”

The city and the county have been discussing updates to the flood plain map for two years. Spokane Valley Community Development Director John Hohman said the city was not notified that the county was considering moving forward alone.

“We had no idea they were going to go to the commission and do that,” he said. “We had been, I thought, cooperating with them and trying to get a study done.”

The Saltese Flats are located east of Barker Road. The area was a lake until it was drained for farming in the early 1900s. The county purchased 500 acres there and plans to pipe treated wastewater to the site in the future.

If the new flood plain map is approved by FEMA and the county completes phase one of the project, it would have to do a new flood plain map before piping in treated wastewater.

Hohman said the city has been reviewing the county’s report and hired a consultant for technical expertise.

At issue is a new apartment complex on Conklin Road south of Sprague Avenue near Shelley Lake. Any water coming up from the Saltese Flats during a 100-year flood would go into Shelley Lake, which is in the city limits. The lake has no outlet. “We call it a closed basin in the engineering world,” Hohman said.

If the lake fills, overflowing water would spill into Steen Pit, an old rock quarry owned by Spokane County. The county’s analysis shows flooding at the apartments, Hohman said, but the city wants to make sure that data is accurate.

“Our consultant is saying the model needs to more accurately reflect what has happened in the last few years to determine if that area will flood in a 100-year event,” he said. “The model really needs to be calibrated.”

Rawls said the county’s analysis shows floodwaters possibly crossing the apartment complex parking lot. “It’s not in the 100-year flood plain, but it will have water going across it during a 100-year event,” Rawls said. “The water will always go where the water has gone.”

Construction of phase one was originally planned to begin this year but has been delayed by the extended discussions between the city and the county, Rawls said. He now hopes to start construction in 2014, but the length of the FEMA review process may push the project further into the future.



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