Tuesday, February 19, 2019
News Council What Happened - Independent Water for Now, Sewage Question Goes Back to the People

Here's what happened at the Council meeting on October 13th. All Councilors were present.

Long Range Water Strategy

CAO Sundance Topham presented a report asking Council for direction on long term strategy for the Village's water supply. Recent events and requirements have identified significant costs related to UV sterilisation, work on No.2 dam spillway to avoid sediment discharge to Comox Lake during heavy rains and filtration needs within the next few years. 

Councilor Kettler suggested that we need more information about the CVRD long range strategy and asked about the option for a deep water intake in Comox Lake feeding the Cumberland supply. Mayor Baird noted that this option had been rejected. Councillor Kettler felt that long term, we would have to be part of the Regional system. 

Mayor Baird expressed concern about Comox Lake as a water supply, felt that Cumberland should do a further study to look at all options before asking to go into a regional system. "We own our system, it is easy to protect and I've always wanted it to remain as our system."

Councilor Kishi recalled that when Cumberland expressed a preference for a deep water intake, the Water Commission flatly rejected the request. The governance model for the regional supply is based on usage, which doesn't support or reward conservation, and the model is not right. 

Councilor Sproule noted that, expensive as our problems may be, joining a CVRD system might not be cheaper. She expressed concerns about the governance of the regional system, and it is difficult to compare a system that is profligately run without meters or demand management with our system where we have done a lot on conservation. It is a long way until the regional system has a deep water intake, filtration and other infrastructure. We would have to build pipes and pumps from Lake Trail road to get it here. 

Councilor Sullivan echoed Councillor Sproule's concerns and supported trying to maintain an independent system. 

Councilor Kettler felt that we should at least be at the table with the Regional District as discussions go forward. She also noted that filtration was a better option than UV sterilisation because our water system is shallow and prone to algae blooms and as climate changes and drought / heavy rain events increase, filtration becomes a priority. We can't afford the cost of filtration alone. 

Councilor Sproule wanted to know the costs of being part of a regional system, because the regional District have not been keen to expand water supply to anyone, except to share the costs of improvements, which will be very expensive. 

Councilor Kettler asked for the proposed Water Supply Strategy to be linked with a Watershed Management Plan to involve more stakeholders and look at a broader picture. 

Mayor Baird asked Sundance Topham which comes first, Supply Strategy or Watershed Plan, and Topham expressed a need to look at the practical engineering of our water supply before considering broader issues. 

Sundance Topham also noted that the province has clearly stated that Cumberland will not receive any grant funding unless we are part of a regional water supply. 

Councilor Sproule said that we have managed OK so far on our own, and didn't believe that VIHA would shut down our water supply if we are continuing to try and improve it. 

Council voted to engage a consultant for a long range water supply strategy for up to $75,000, and not to proceed with the UV sterilisation project or No 2 Dam upgrades. In this vote, Council rejected the option of asking to join the CVRD water supply. 

Liquid Waste Management Plan

The South Sewer plan, which Council rejected earlier this year when Cumberland's cost would be $15m, now has a good chance of obtaining a PPP Canada grant that would reduce Cumberland's costs to $10m and reduce homeowner property tax increases. If Cumberland does not join at this point, the South Sewer project is much less likely to go ahead because other grants will expire. Staff asked whether to go back to consultation for public feedback on this option or whether the project is still too expensive.

Councilor Kishi noted that we are being faced with yet another deadline, and even if we say yes now, it won't be until next September we know whether there is any, or full PPP funding. He thought it would be right to go back to residents with as much information as possible. There is still information that is not public from the South Sewer project that should be released. There is a recognition by residents that we do need to do something about liquid waste, and that is not going to be free. 

Councilor Kettler said that PPP is a for-profit funding model, and called it the 'payday loans' of municipal lending, with private partners making money on the operating and maintenance costs. We don't need this mega project with a pipe to Cape Lazo and should explore other options within the village including reclaimed water.

Councilor Sproule had been prepared to go forward with the project until we were not part of the decision to change the outfall from Baynes Sound to Cape Lazo, adding $5m to the cost. This project doesn't fit with sustainability to send water gravity fed down to Union Bay then pump all the way across the estuary. 

Councilor Sullivan is curious to see what the citizens think, still feels it is ridiculous to put a pipe under the estuary, and thinks that most people in the village do not support this project. 

Mayor Baird wanted to see the discussion return to the public so they can see the time and effort that has gone into the project and give their feedback. 

Council Voted unanimously to take the question to the next Town Hall meeting. 

Wetlands Water Level Gauges

Council approved up to $1800 for equipment and Public Works labour to install water level monitoring gauges in Cumberland wetlands to establish a baseline of levels over the coming years. 

Lake Park Concession - 19th Wing volunteer project. 

Council had previously approved $105,000 for upgrades to the Lake Park concession together with volunteer labour from 19th Wing Comox. Detailed design by Megan Tremble design, together with the Village and 19th Wing, has now been done and the revised cost estimates are $25,000 higher. Council agreed to proceed and allocate the extra funds. 

Your correspondent had to leave after these items. 

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