Grant funding for sewage treatment at risk: Jensen

Two CRD committee decisions may cause a delay that puts sewage treatment grant funding at risk

A pair of CRD committee decisions last week may cause a delay that puts sewage treatment grant funding at high risk, warns Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen.

“We’re not going to meet the March 31 deadline, that’s clear. Can we get an extension? That’s not so clear,” he told the Oak Bay News Thursday.

The Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee decided during its Dec. 16 meeting not to send the latest information out for public consumption and feedback. Going to the public was defeated in a tie vote with clear opinions on both sides.

“Obviously we all want to keep the public involved, keep the public informed but I can’t see what we’re going to say to them at this time,” said director Vic Derman, the Saanich councillor who led the charge against going to the public. “Here are four representative options – maybe – that we have all sorts of problems with.”

That included four options with estimated annual costs: One plant in the Rock Bay area of Victoria at a cost from $1.031 billion (secondary treatment) to $1.139 billion (tertiary treatment); a two-plant system with secondary and tertiary treatment in Rock Bay and Colwood, for $1.088 billion; a four-plant system in Rock Bay, Colwood, Esquimalt First Nation and East Saanich, with secondary and tertiary treatment for $1.195 billion; and a seven-plant option — including plants in Rock Bay, Colwood, Esquimalt, East Saanich, View Royal, Langford and Saanich — with secondary and tertiary treatment for $1.348 billion.

“The public will have come to some conclusions themselves,” said director and Saanich councillor Susan Brice, adding that obviously seven plants cost more than one and tertiary is more expensive than secondary.

“When the (public) consultation occurs, the critical thing is to tone it down, not put pressure on people. Remind the public we’re in a fluid process … take more questions from them and provide answers where we have answers.”

Staff are to come back with more information on lifecycle costs for various options, an accurate projection of greenhouse gas mitigation of the various options, more of the rationale behind costing allocations and better description of the allocation options. The committee also asked the West Side committee to investigate a site for Colwood/Langford offering secondary and tertiary added to the options. That too will add time, Jensen said.

“To inject that at this late date will clearly push us past the March 31 deadline,” he said. “It was a challenge to get this extension, I certainly hope we can do it (again) but I think there’s a small chance.”

The province committed $248 million alongside a federal grant of $253.4 million – both have already extended deadlines.

“Given the extra cost, given the high risk of losing federal and provincial funding, there’s an obligation to put McLoughlin back on the table. By comparison it is clearly the greenest, most cost-efficient plan of all that we’ve seen to date.”

Esquimalt council rejected a rezoning application for McLoughlin Point in April 2014, citing overwhelming public opposition to the regional sewage project and a lack of proper setbacks and tsunami protection for the waterfront property.

“The duty to the public is to put that on the table,” Jensen said. “It may be that people want to look at it, even in Esquimalt, now that we see that a seven-plant solution could cost each household in Esquimalt $1,427 annually. That’s an astronomical figure for any community.”

CRD staff compiled per-household figures that reflected costs with and without the federal and provincial funding. The Esquimalt number is the highest projected for a seven-plant solution without a grant.