Esquimalt Coun. Meagan Brame doesn’t think anybody has anything to be concerned about when it comes to the region’s plan to construct a wastewater treatment plant at McLoughlin Point being derailed yet again by the township’s council.
They have yet to even see the rezoning application for the project, she noted, but the township is leading the process so it can move forward at an efficient pace. For Brame, this time feels different than two years ago.
“Our push backs in the past, we have been criticized for them repeatedly. What we’ve gotten back is a project that has better technology, not perfect, but better. It’s coming back at a better cost, so people have to realize that we’ve never been a total roadblock,” said Brame. “We have to see it first and that’s part of the rezoning process. But by us (township staff) leading it, we’re showing people we aren’t road blocking it, we are helping it move forward in a proper manner that’s both legal and correct.”
The Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee (CALWAC) was recently given a status report on the work the wastewater treatment project board has done thus far with the massive project. A project director and deputy project director have been hired, said project board chair Jane Bird, and a number of meetings have been held with community groups, the harbour authority and the Department of National Defence.
The project board and Township of Esquimalt have also agreed on a timeline for a city initiated rezoning and development permit process that includes two open houses in January. A third open house will be scheduled for CFB Esquimalt residents and a public hearing for a zoning amendment bylaw will be held Feb. 20 — news that caught CRD board director and View Royal Mayor David Screech off guard.
“I have real concern that once again we’re moving down the same path as last time,” said Screech. “I thought the strength of this (site) this time was that we had a zoned site and we were moving forward with that. I think the risks are enormous. I don’t know why we would feel that the sentiment of Esquimalt council is any different now than it was before.”
Two years ago, the CRD came close to constructing a facility at the same site, but the township rejected the plan, citing concerns with the size and environmental impact, forcing the CRD to come up with a different plan. McLoughlin, however, was added back into the mix of options the board was mulling last spring at the suggestion of another director due to the cost.
With a Sept. 30 deadline looming for the CRD to submit its plan for wastewater treatment to the federal government or risk losing hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, the board voted in mid-September to build a wastewater treatment facility at McLoughlin Point, backing a plan that calls for a single 108 megalitre/day plant for tertiary treatment at an estimated cost of $765 million.
Bird noted the project has a much smaller footprint, larger setbacks from the shoreline and would have solids transported by pipe to the Hardland landfill in Saanich. Esquimalt would receive $20 million in amenities, including an annual payment of $55,000.
On Wednesday, Bird said the project board thought the redesigned plant aligned with the zoning bylaw, but the bylaw was quite specific in terms of some of the requirements for the increased density needed to accommodate the plant footprint, such as a ferry service to carry supplies to McLoughlin Point and other “fairly quirky” components.
“We just sort of said wait a minute, this doesn’t make any sense, so they said maybe you should rezone,” said Bird, noting the board tried to resize and redesign the plant to align it with the current zoning.
“It would be incorrect to say that there’s no risk associated with this (rezoning) process, but I am cautiously optimistic…We are doing everything we can to mitigate that risk and come up with a package that both council and members of the community and the broader DND community think represents a reasonable design, and something that adds value there.”
Whether Esquimalt council will reject the project a second time remains to be seen, but emotions ran high when news of the CRD’s September decision was brought to council in the fall.
Esquimalt Coun. Tim Morrison has blasted the CRD for bringing McLoughlin back into the picture. He can’t predict what will happen this time, but as far as he’s concerned nothing has changed.
“I lost track how many times it’s come back to council. It’s like getting a root canal every time,” said Morrison, who believes Rock Bay was the right direction for a wastewater treatment facility.
“The CRD has always gone back to basically wanting to repeat the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. That is the definition of insanity. And I think that insanity is a good word that describes how the CRD has handled this project.”