The latest vision of Silver Valley cleanup; plus, debates about debates


After two years of back-and-forth, the Environmental Protection Agency has whittled down its final plan for cleaning up mining pollution in the Silver Valley.

Back in 2010, the agency wanted to spend $1.3 billion on a 50-year plan to remove heavy metal pollutants, like arsenic and lead, from the area known as the Coeur d’Alene Basin, or Bunker Hill Superfund site. But some residents and Idaho politicians claimed that so much work was unnecessary and would take too long.

The agency took almost 7,000 comments on its initial plan and scaled back the cost and time frame. Cleanup is now expected to cost $635 million and take about 30 years.

The site was first added to the EPA’s priorities list of contaminated sites in 1983, and some say that status has hindered economic development in the area. But in its latest update on the project, the EPA argues that, while “the cleanup has made great strides over the last 20 years,” the area is still plagued with contaminants that “pose a serious risk to human health and the environment.” On-the-ground work on the latest phase of cleanup is expected to start next spring.



Skateboarding may not be a crime, but to the Medical Lake City Council, the two go hand-in-hand. The skatepark in Medical Lake temporarily closed last summer after reports of vandalism — graffiti, poop smeared in the bathroom — and possible drug deals.

Now, after a year, the Medical Lake City Council voted to make that temporary closure permanent.

“We had nothing but trouble when it was open,” says city councilman Howard Jorgenson. “We had given the kids a chance to police it themselves. And they couldn’t do it.”

The skatepark had been constructed in the fall of 2003 to draw skateboarders away from businesses, but by 2004, the neighborhood it was built in had sued because of the park’s noise. The city built noise buffers, but the complaints continued.

While some communities have built skateparks to reduce crime, Jorgenson says that in Medical Lake, it simply gave criminals a place to meet.

“If I never see someone’s genitals spray-painted on the wall, it will be too soon,” city administrator Doug Ross says. “We tried our butts off. … After eight years, enough is enough.”

Skateparks in Spokane have had their own troubles with crime. Two 12-year-old boys have been charged with assaulting a 13-year-old on Aug. 20 at the Hillyard skatepark.



For incumbents with a huge lead in polling and fundraising money — like U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., — there may seem like little advantage in subjecting themselves to a debate with their opponent.

But Rodgers, at least, has decided to agree on two debates — though her opponent, Rich Cowan, would prefer 10. So far, Cantwell hasn’t agreed to any.

“Baumgartner has continued to request debates with Senator Cantwell,” GOP Chair Matthew Pederson says. “Thus far all requests have been denied or outright ignored.”

Now Rodgers has said that she’ll agree to 10 debates, if Cantwell agrees to 39 debates — one in every county — with Baumgartner.

Kelly Steele, Cantwell’s campaign spokesperson, says Cantwell will debate, but hasn’t yet finalized her schedule.


Grand Coulee Dam Laser Light Show @ Grand Coulee Dam Visitor Center

Through Sept. 30
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About The Authors

Heidi Groover

Heidi Groover is a staff writer at the Inlander, where she covers city government and drug policy. On the job, she's spent time with prostitutes, "street kids," marriage equality advocates and the family of a 16-year-old organ donor...

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters is the Inlander's senior investigative reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...