The Cowlitz Indian Tribe is currently in the process of working on a new casino in the La Center area, and part of the construction consists of creating a sewer line. The tribe agreed with the city to pay for a sewer line to extend from La Center to Exit 16 of Interstate 5 as part of the casino-resort plans expected by the tribe. The sewer line is expected to cost $3 million and would stop at the city limits. The sewer line would service properties located from the I-5 junction to the La Center wastewater plant.

However, the city sewer line will not be connected to the casino, which is currently under construction. The line would be set on the east side of I-5 and the $510 million casino project is located on the west side of the Interstate. The connection will not be made as the Reservation of the tribe is located outside what is considered the La Center urban growth boundary line. The wastewater treatment center of the city was constructed in 2009 at a higher capacity to be able to handle the casino’s sewage. However, the courts ruled in 2015 that the extension of the sewer line beyond this boundary would be in violation of the planning policies of Clark County Washington.

Because of this, the tribe will be moving forward with their plans to create a treatment system for sewage that will cost $13.4 million and would be used to inject wastewater treated to drinking water standards deep within the ground. Bill Iyall, the Chairman of the Cowlitz Tribe, announced these plans last week and stated that the tribe has spoken with the Environmental Protection Agency in regards to the sewage treatment project, a project that requires the approval of the EPA.

The new system would be a vadose injection unit that would pump as much as 400,000 gallons of treated wastewater that is deep within the ground, each day. This proposal by the tribe has been considered controversial as the Troutdale Aquifer System is located 120-220 feet below the proposed injection site. This system supplies 99% of the drinking water to Clark County.

The Cowlitz tribe has made promises that the system will exceed the standards set forth locally, within the state and federally as set forth in the Safe Drinking Water Act. The tribe would have preferred to have sewer service with the city instead but according to Lyall, La Center was kept from extending beyond the growth area and the tribe cannot wait any longer for legal battles to continue before doing something in regards to the sewage issue for the property. This is why the tribe has decided to create their own system onsite.