History of Project
Environmental concerns associated with continued landfilling, new Washington State solid waste regulations and federal actions directly affecting Spokane area landfills led the City and County to jointly develop a comprehensive program for regional solid waste reduction, recycling, recovery of energy, and residue disposal. This cooperative effort resulted in the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System, which includes the Waste to Energy Facility, North County Transfer Station, and Valley Transfer Station. Each of these facilities has a recycling center and household hazardous waste turn-in area on site. Ash produced from the waste to energy process is sent to an ash mono fill at Rabanco’s Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Klickitat County, WA. In addition, there is an active cell at the Northside Landfill that is available for bypass and nonprocessible materials collected by the System. These facilities are intended to provide long-term, environmentally sound solid waste disposal for both the City of Spokane and the other incorporated and unincorporated areas of the County.
For additional information on Spokane County landfill closures, click here (Spokane County, Utilities Department website).
In response to the Final Report and Water Quality Management Plan to Preserve Spokane's Sole-Source Aquifer (April, 1979), a consortium consisting of the City, County, and The Washington Water Power Company, hired Morrison-Knudsen in 1982 to conduct a feasibility study of various solid waste management systems. They looked at 10 different scenarios and ranked them according to environmental and economic criteria. The final report was completed in 1983, and it recommended that a waste to energy facility be included as part of the new Regional Solid Waste System.
In 1983, the County developed the Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan to address the solid waste management and disposal needs of the Spokane area. The Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 1984 by the County, the City and all other incorporated cities in the County (with the exception of the Town of Rockford). It was also subject to environmental and public review and subsequent conditional approval in 1986 by the Washington State Department of Ecology. The Comprehensive Plan recommended a County-wide approach to solid waste management with the preferred method of disposal incorporating waste reduction and recycling activities, a waste to energy facility, recycling/transfer stations and a regional residue landfill. The Plan was updated in 1992 and 1998.
The waste to energy elements, including size, site selection, energy market analysis and overall feasibility, were developed for the City and County in a Project Definition Report prepared by HDR Engineering in 1985. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the System was prepared based upon the State Environmental Policy Act. Public hearings were held and a Final EIS was issued in 1986. The environmental documents were challenged and the Spokane County Superior Court ruled in favor of the System on all issues.
A detailed contractor selection process commenced with the issuance of a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in May, 1986. Sixteen responses were received, and five vendors were invited to respond to the Request for Proposals (RFP), issued in December, 1986. Four vendors submitted proposals and Wheelabrator (formerly Signal Environmental Systems) was selected as the preferred vendor. After successful negotiations, the City and County entered into the Construction and Service Contracts with Wheelabrator Spokane Inc. in November, 1987 (Amended and Restated in 1989) for construction and operation of the waste to energy facility.
A Conditional Notice to Proceed for construction of the waste to energy facility was issued on February 10, 1989. Only tasks that were of a non-permanent nature, such as land clearing, could be performed until the last remaining permit (the Prevention of Significant Deterioration [PSD] Permit) was obtained. This permit became final on January 2, 1990, and on January 3, 1990, the Final Notice to Proceed was issued. Construction began immediately and Wheelabrator finished the project ahead of schedule. The “ First Burn” took place on September 5, 1991. Acceptance testing was performed on the waste to energy facility between November 8 and November 15, 1991, during which time the facility demonstrated compliance with the full acceptance standards. On February 17, 1992, the waste to energy facility was officially accepted by the City Council.
Concurrent with construction of the waste to energy facility, the North County Transfer Station was constructed by Citadel; the Valley Transfer Station was constructed by Lydig. The recycling center at the waste to energy facility was constructed by Garco Construction. All the facilities were completed on schedule and opened to the public on December 23, 1991.
Century West Engineering was hired in mid-1987 to site and develop an ash landfill. During the Landfill Siting and Development Study, a site search identified 228 potential sites in Spokane County. Owners of 54 of these sites volunteered to have their property evaluated. This was narrowed down to 14, and ultimately the following three sites were selected for further consideration: Lance Hills, Grove Road, and Malloy Prairie.
However, during the process of selecting one of these sites as the preferred site, two other options were introduced. They included out-of-county disposal via long haul at existing regional landfills and expansion of the existing Marshall Landfill. An RFP was issued and three proposals were submitted. They were from the Rabanco Regional Landfill in Klickitat County, WA; Waste Management's Landfill in Gilliam County, OR; and Finley Buttes Landfill in Morrow County, OR. The Marshall Landfill did not submit a proposal on expansion of its landfill. Ultimately it was decided that long haul was the best option and a contract was executed with Rabanco on July 26, 1991.
The last component of the System to be implemented was a regional composting facility. An RFQ/P was issued on March 31, 1992, and proposals were received from Eco-cycle Composting and O. M. Scott & Sons. O.M. Scott & Sons was selected as the preferred vendor and a contract for composting services was executed with them on July 6, 1993. A site was selected, with Scott’s approval, just south of the North County Transfer Station. The Regional Compost Facility began operating in November, 1993.
In 2000, the contract with O.M. Scott was terminated. On May 23, 2000, a contract with Norcal Waste Systems, Inc., was entered into for operation of the compost facility using the Ag-Bag technology.
In 2003, the contract with Norcal Waste Systems, Inc., was terminated. Waste Management, Inc., was selected as the contractor to compost yard waste at Threemile Canyon Farms in Boardman, Oregon.
Pursuant to recommendations of the Comprehensive Solid Waste Management Plan 1984 Update and the Morrison-Knudsen Feasibility Study, the City of Spokane borrowed $50 million on a short-term bond anticipation note in December 1984. The timing was significant because of pending tax law changes which would become effective in January 1985. The advantage of borrowing these funds prior to January 1985, was that the interest earned over and above the interest due on these notes (arbitrage) could be used for solid waste project development. During the four-year life of these bonds, the total revenue earned from the arbitrage was approximately $4,700,000.
The arbitrage funds were used to support the Spokane Regional Solid Waste Disposal Project in developing the feasibility of a waste to energy facility, the environmental review process, and procurement process. Waste reduction/recycling, school programs, litter control programs, and ash residue disposal options were also supported by these funds.
Permanent long-term financing was secured in January 1989, at which time the $50 million short-term notes were paid off. The City of Spokane borrowed $105,250,000 in revenue bonds to finance the cost of acquisition and construction of the waste to energy facility, two transfer stations, recycling centers, household hazardous waste turn-in sites, and a landfill cell for disposal of bypass and nonprocessible materials. The City of Spokane and Spokane County received $20 million of the revenue bonds for landfill closure expenses.
In addition to the revenue bonds, the System was financed by a $60 million Referendum 39 Grant from the Department of Ecology. The City Council approved acceptance of this grant on November 17, 1986, and the County Commissioners approved it on November 18, 1986. On November 24, 1986, the $60 million grant, which provided 50% matching funds for eligible expenditures, was executed.