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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

New lease for well and pump house holding up Browns Park splash pad

The city of Spokane Valley would like to add a splash pad to Browns Park, but officials have encountered an unexpected problem: access to water.

Spokane County Water District 3 has a wellhead and a pump house located in the park, so infrastructure isn’t the issue. The problem is that the original lease of the park land where Water District 3 has its facilities expired in 2013, and the district and city haven’t agreed to a new one.

Ty Wick, the general manager of Spokane County Water District 3, said he was aware there was a lease but it wasn’t at the top of his list of concerns.

“The city came to us and asked for a new use of water in the park,” Wick said – the splash pad. “The existing agreement has expired and it didn’t include this use, so we asked for an easement.”

Wick added that the well has been in that location for more than 100 years and Spokane Valley has received free water for the park as part of the agreement.

Spokane Valley City Attorney Cary Driskell said the city became aware of the lease when officials began planning for the splash pad.

Driskell dug into the history of the area that’s now Browns Park.

It was owned by the Yamamoto family, and in 1969, that family granted an easement and water right for a well to the Guthries and West Valley Builders.

At some point after 1969, but before 1977, the Yamamotos transferred the property to the Brown family, who gave the property to Spokane County in 1977.

Driskell said Washington Water Power (which is now Avista) was granted a 35-year lease for the well and pump house in 1978. However, Avista transferred the assets to Water District 3 and that’s the lease that expired in 2013.

In the meantime, Spokane Valley incorporated in 2003 and, as part of that process, received the park land from Spokane County.

Driskell said the expired lease basically allowed for the water district’s use of park property in exchange for water for the park.

“No money was exchanged by either side,” Driskell said. “We thought it was a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Spokane Valley offered a 35-year lease with an additional 15 years during which Water District 3 would have the right of first refusal if the city decided to sell the land for other than park use.

And that’s what makes Wick, the water district’s general manager, uneasy.

“We don’t know which property decisions the city could make in the future,” Wick said.

The proposed lease would require that Water District 3 remove all its facilities from the park at the end of the lease.

“That would be extremely expensive,” Wick said. “We can’t just dig a well somewhere else.”

City and water district staff have met a couple of times and the Spokane Valley City Council is expected to give city staff further direction this week.