History of the District

The Newman Lake Flood Control Zone District (NLFCZD) was formed in 1968. The District is supervised by the Spokane County Board of County Commissioners who support an unpaid five member (plus 3 alternative members) to an Advisory Board. The County Engineer administers the District for the Advisory Board and the Board of County Commissioners.

The district was formed in 1968 when Newman Lake property owners asked Spokane County for assistance in managing the lake level and flooding problems around Newman Lake. The existing flood and water control facilities at Newman Lake had deteriorated and were not functioning properly. They needed an organization to be responsible for the improvement of the control structure and outlet channel.

Prior to creation of the District, the Newman Lake area flood control system was constructed, operated and maintained voluntarily by neighboring farmers beginning in the 1880's. Newman Lake has no natural surface water outlet. To control the lake level and dispose of excess water that hindered their ability to farm areas around the lake, these farmers constructed an outlet ditch. The ditch extended from the south end of the lake almost 4 miles to a natural gravel area northeast of Moab. The waters were allowed to pond in this area, and seep into the ground. Initial right-of-way for the ditch and rights to flood in the area of the sump were obtained in 1886 and 1887, respectively.

This group of farmers more formally became the Trustees of the Newman Lake Drainage Ditch in 1902. Beginning in 1903, the Spokane Canal Co., the predecessor of the Otis Orchards Irrigation District, entered into a 99-year lease of the ditch from the Trustees and took over maintenance of the facilities. The Otis Orchards Irrigation District obtained additional easements/right-of-way along the channel over the intervening years. They also obtained property just south of the current outlet structure for construction of an outlet structure in 1920, and an easement for construction/maintenance of a dike at the south end of the lake in 1936.

However, after construction of the Spokane Valley Water Project, this Otis Orchards Irrigation District no longer had a need for water from Newman Lake. In fact, the Otis Orchards Irrigation District wished to be relieved of the necessity of continuing to maintain the ditch so that they could dissolve their District. Newman Lake area residents dependent on operation of this water control system had to find an organization to take responsibility for operation of the system as well as sponsor funding requests for improvements.

The Newman Lake Flood Control Zone District was formed in 1968 when Newman Lake area property owners asked Spokane County for assistance in managing the lake level and flooding problems around Newman Lake. The existing flood and water control facilities at Newman Lake had deteriorated and were not functioning properly.

They needed an organization to be responsible for the improvement of the control structures and outlet channel. At the time, this type of District was the least costly and easiest to form and best met the needs of the District. In April 1967, a petition signed by over 25% of area electors was filed with the Spokane County Auditor for the creation of a flood control zone district. The Board held public hearings, and one October 29, 1968, the Board signed a resolution forming the Newman Lake Flood Control Zone District. A copy of the resolution can be found in Appendix B-1 of the Policy and Procedures Manual.

In 1974, the Soil Conservation District (SCS) completed preparation of a Watershed Work Plan for Newman Lake. The plan provided for a new outlet structure to be constructed north of the existing structure where rock could provide a solid foundation. The plan also called for improvements to the floodwater barrier, outlet channel and sump to meet current design standards and handle a 100-year flood event. All of the funds for construction of these facilities were to be provided under Federal PL 566 Program. However, local funds were needed for securing the right-of-ways necessary for these improvements, and operating and maintaining these improvements after construction.

The plan was implemented and facilities were constructed between 1977 and 1983, at a total construction cost of about $900,000. Cost of obtaining right-of-way for these facilities total about $130,000. The District began collecting benefit assessments for the operation and maintenance of these structures, and to pay off bonds used to fund right-of-way acquisition in 1981.

Newman Lake area citizens began to raise water quality concerns in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Serious algae bloom were having an impact on the beauty and recreational use of the lake. To allow the District to assist in the efforts to study and alleviate water quality problems, citizens initiated a campaign to revise state law to allow flood control zone districts to fund water quality improvements. This was accomplished in 1983.

In 1985,the District received a grant from Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) to study the Lake's water quality problems. This began Phase 1 of the Lake Restoration Program. This study identified the problem as overloading of nutrients, most particularly phosphorus from watershed runoff and recycling of in-lake sediments. This was feeding excessive algae growth and creating a high biological oxygen demand that was causing extremely low oxygen levels in the lower level of the lake, damaging fish habitat. Proposed solutions included: an alum treatment to bind up phosphorus in the water column and cap sediments to reduce nutrient recycling; a hypolimnetic aeration system to increase oxygen in lower lake levels and thereby reduce nutrient recycling and improve fish habitat; and reduce sediment/nutrient loading input from the watershed with a watershed management plan, public education, and a septic system survey.

These recommendations were implemented as Phase II of the Lake restoration with grant funding from DOE in 1989. The goal of this grant was reduction of nutrient levels in the lake now and into the future. The District provided 25% of the matching funds with a lake restoration benefit assessment that it began collecting in 1989. Total cost of the Phase II restoration program was about one million dollars.

The surface alum treatment (about 250 dry tons alum) was done in 1989 at a total cost of $265,000. The Hyplimnetic Aeration system, constructed at a cost of $539,000, began operation in 1992. In addition, the Spokane Regional Health District conducted a survey of lake front septic systems and public involvement was encouraged through the establishment of the Newman Lake Watershed Committee (NLWSC), a watershed management plan was published to provide information to homeowners, and a water quality monitoring program was initiated.

The implementation of Phase II has significantly improved Lake water quality, with improved dissolved oxygen levels, and reduced algae blooms. In 1997, with the effects of the initial surface alum treatment decreasing, the District continued lake water quality improvement efforts with construction of a Micro Floc alum injection system, using the existing aeration system as a distribution system. Total cost, funding solely from District Lake restoration benefit assessments, was about $57,000. Prior to this construction, the District prepared the Comprehensive Plan of Development for Stormwater Control in the Newman Lake Watershed. This report provides the guidance for our current watershed management and water quality improvement activities.