Aquifer study moves forward

Karen Dorn Steele -
The Spokesman-Review Staff writer


A $500,000 appropriation to study the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer has survived a House-Senate conference committee.

The money is included in the 2004 Interior Appropriations bill, which must be approved by both houses of Congress and sent to the White House.

Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Larry Craig, R-Idaho, worked for two years to secure money to study the sole source of the region's drinking water.

The money wasn't appropriated last year because the House provided no funds and the Senate request was stripped from the conference committee bill.

The $500,000 for the study's first phase will help determine how much water is flowing underground from North Idaho into the Spokane Valley, Murray said Thursday.

"Eastern Washington families deserve to know that when they turn on the faucet there will be water available," Murray said. "This federal funding will help us find out."

Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., worked on the House side to secure the money.

"This study will enable us to manage this resource for future generations in the most responsible way possible," Nethercutt said.

The study could cost as much as $3.5million.

It was proposed in 2001 following bids from three peak-demand power companies to draw an additional 20million gallons a day from the aquifer -- an amount equivalent to one-third of Spokane's average daily water use.

Idaho denied the applications of two power companies, which then withdrew.

The U.S. Geological Survey has signed an agreement with Washington and Idaho regulators to develop a work plan for the study, which will include a computer model of the aquifer's capacity.


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