New plaza opens up on the Spokane River, houses overflow tank underneath it

The construction of the combined sewer overflow tank near the Downtown Library has caused the closure of the Monroe Street Bridge, and has blocked traffic on Spokane Falls Boulevard for years.

It is part of a larger effort to keep the Spokane River clean.

The project has been in the works more than three years, and part of the end result is a new pedestrian plaza overlooking the river. The view is breathtaking, but what may be more interesting is all the engineering underneath it.

Beneath the plaza is the service level of the combined sewer overflow tank, and 4 News Now got an inside look.

“Just to get this size of a structure on the side of a hill was very challenging,” said Garco Construction Project Engineer, Justin Ludwig.

The tank itself is about 2.2 million gallons in capacity – that’s about the size of four Olympic swimming pools. The goal of the tank is to collect storm water from city street, and keep it from going into the river before it can be treated.

“[There] are hose reels that will be used after a storm event, for the Waste Water Department [can] come in and clean out the inside of the tank,” said Ludwig.

The tank is one of two dozen built across the City, and one of the largest. It is slated to be online sometime in 2020.

Despite how nice and pretty this new tank is, it’s important to remember that it is a sewer tank. Along with the storm water, it also collects that formidable sewer smell – but the City has a plan for that, too. Large, white pipes will collect that smell, diffuse it, and then finally release it elsewhere.

After all, no one wants a beautiful plaza that smells like a sewer.

The new plaza opens up views that you won’t find anywhere else, and the plan is to eventually create a connecting path underneath the Monroe Street Bridge.

“So, that’s our remaining piece of what would be the Great Gorge Loop Trail,” said Marlene Feist, with the City of Spokane.

That loop would stretch from the Sandifur Bridge on the west end to the Post Street Bridge on the east.

“The more people connect and view the rivers, the more people will take care of it for future generations,” said Feist.

Despite this marvel of engineering and the beautiful sights, time is running short to enjoy the plaza, because it will soon be closing for the winter to protect the concrete. Once it reopens, however, you can enjoy it for decades to come.