A pair of federal and provincial Clean Water Wastewater Fund grants will help “achieve a sustainable Oak Bay,” says acting mayor Michelle Kirby.
Oak Bay was awarded $324,958 for the Uplands Combined Sewer Separation Project and $1,150,172 for the completion of the Henderson Water Main Project
“They’re both identified in our strategic priorities,” Kirby said. “Obviously the Uplands sewage and storm separation project was something we knew was coming for a long time and we’ve been preparing for that, but the water redundancy issue, we weren’t really aware of it until last year. It got moved up in our strategic priorities.”
The Uplands funding will go toward detailed design work. The Henderson Water Main Project will provide redundancy for the provision of water to Oak Bay.
Currently one large pipe provides water to Oak Bay. If that pipe goes down, water would be unavailable in the community until it is repaired.
The second pipe would provide an alternate route for water.
“It felt like we didn’t have a choice to put the water redundancy at the top of the list … it’s an essential service. It was alarming that we only had this one source of water,” Kirby said, noting replacement of aging infrastructure is established as a high priority for the community and identified as a priority in the official community plan.
As part of the bilateral agreement between Canada and B.C., 144 projects were approved for federal funding of more than $186.6 million. Combined with provincial funding of nearly $123.2 million and local government contributions of over $63.4 million, more than $373.2 million will be going toward projects across the province. The Government of Canada allocated $225,067,721 to British Columbia under the CWWF and will fund up to 50 per cent of the eligible project costs. The Government of British Columbia will provide up to $148.5 million and will fund 33 per cent of the eligible project costs. Local governments provide the remainder.
A condition of the grant is that projects be completed by March 31, that means quick implementation, Kirby said.
“I don’t think we anticipated being able to do that. Now that we’ve got the money we can get it done and get it done quickly,” she said.
The funding represents about seven per cent in taxes for residential property owners.
“Honestly this is still tax dollars, but it’s not coming from property taxes so it’s going to lighten the load for taxpayers,” Kirby said. “It’s nice to know that at least this project is not going to be the responsibility of the taxpayer as much.”
It’s also a good sign that staff are eying alternative funding opportunities, with shovel-ready projects at hand to successfully apply for those grants.
“It’s really encouraging and it takes a bit of the fear, out of me anyway, feeling responsible for the community,” Kirby said. “I do have trouble sleeping at night thinking about just how much we have to replace, how much needs to get done. If we delay any more we’re going to be in big trouble.”
The Clean Water and Wastewater Fund supports rehabilitation of community drinking water and wastewater infrastructure as well as planning and design of future systems that meet drinking water and wastewater effluent standards.