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Capital Region clears sewage business plan

Capital Region clears sewage business plan

The Capital Regional District board approved a business plan for sewage treatment yesterday that will be forwarded to the provincial government.

It’s a significant step forward in the region’s largest infrastructure project and recommends the entire project, estimated at close to $1 billion, be a public one.

But even as a key part of the effort moved forward, several board members and many members of the public said there are too many unanswered questions to proceed without further study.

When the province mandated in 2006 that the region have secondary sewage treatment by 2016, it asked for several things. They include having a system that involves some sort of resource recovery from the wastewater, flexibility to accommodate and encourage future innovation and that the lowest-cost approach be examined, said board member Vic Derman, a Saanich councillor.

“I can’t in all honesty say we’ve come even close to meeting those requirements,” Derman said.

The business plan calls for two treatment sites: one in Saanich at Haro Woods and the other at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt. The West Shore would have its own facility. Wastewater would be treated at the sites, instead of the current system, where it goes through a six-millimetre screen before being discharged into the ocean.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins and View Royal Mayor Graham Hill voiced concerns about the lack of resource recovery in the suggested system.

Wayne Hunter, a Saanich councillor, warned the rest of the board that the three critics — Hill, Desjardins and Derman — “have been consistent in non-support,” causing Derman to throw up his hands.

The majority of the board voted in favour of sending the business plan to the province.

Susan Brice, a Saanich councillor and former MLA, said while the project has unknowns, submitting the business plan doesn’t mean there’ll be no more discussions or changes.

Kelly Daniels, the CRD’s chief administrative officer, said it’s clear in the business case that further analysis is needed. As that information comes in, it will be brought to the sewage committee and the CRD board, he said, and the business case can be changed.

The CRD is looking at sites other than the two selected. It’s negotiating for land in the upper Inner Harbour, so McLoughlin Point wouldn’t be needed. Shifting the Saanich site is also being considered.

The cost of the project is to be split among the CRD, the province and the federal government.

Bill Bennett, minister of community and rural development, wrote in a letter to the Times Colonist that the province is committed to funding “the best, lowest-cost solution for this project.”

The CRD business plan will be reviewed by the province’s Partnership B.C., which will “decide if a P3 [public-private partnership] makes sense,” wrote Bennett.

The business plan recommends that a P3 model be considered for the West Shore site and a resource-recovery plant that extracts energy from wastewater, but that all other facets be handled by public bodies.

Two petitions with more than 7,000 signatures opposing a P3 system were given to the board.

Terry Huntington of the Greater Victoria Water Watch Coalition told the board it does not have to submit to the “threats and dictates” of the provincial government — only one of the three funders — on how the project proceeds.

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

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