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Ducks Unlimited seeks to conserve wetlands

Wed., April 2, 2014, midnight

Ducks Unlimited is offering to buy 64 acres of wetlands southeast of Spokane Valley and transfer the land to Spokane County as a permanent conservation holding.

The property is adjacent to 515 acres of Saltese Flats lakebed that the county purchased in 2010 and 2011 for wetland restoration.

County utility officials said that Ducks Unlimited would restore wetlands on the 64 acres as part of the acquisition.

That organization has access to grant money from the federal North American Wetland Conservation Act to use for the purchase, said Ben Brattabo, of the county utilities department.

The 64 acres is currently owned by Charles and Joanne Petit, who live on one of their three parcels on the southeast side of Saltese Flats.

Brattabo described them as willing sellers.

He said two of the three parcels would be redrawn to create the property for the Ducks Unlimited purchase.

Spokane County earlier used $1.5 million of utility funds to purchase a large section of Saltese Flats for wetland restoration and possible future use for disposal of treated wastewater.

The wetland is considered an option for disposal of treated effluent if the county is forced to stop using the Spokane River for disposal.

Utilities Director Kevin Cooke said it is not clear whether the state will ever allow treated wastewater to be pumped to Saltese Flats for disposal.

The county is now finishing a flood study as part of a wetland restoration that is intended to slow the migration of annual runoff from Mica Peak and adjacent hills to improve the recharge of the Spokane River during summer and early fall when stream flows are low.

Residents of Saltese Flats have expressed concerns about what the county plans to do and how that might affect adjoining residential properties.

County Commissioner Todd Mielke said he wants county legal staff to look into any potential drainage covenants and restrictions to the grant funding so the county will know what it is acquiring in the deal.

Construction of the first phase of wetland restoration may not happen until 2015.

That work involves redirecting flows off Mica Peak into new stream channels that would carry water over the ancient lakebed. A berm around the wetlands would provide a trail for public use. Several water control structures, including a spillway, would be built.

Long-range plans call for an interpretive center.

Also in the vicinity is the 552-acre Saltese Uplands Conservation Area. The Spokane County park holding was purchased in 2011 in the foreclosure of developer Marshall Chesrown’s defunct Legacy Ridge development.

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