January 2021 Newsletter
Updated: Jan 14
Happy New Year everyone and I hope you’ve all had a relaxing, healthy and delicious holiday season. Riding out this second wave certainly feels more taxing than the first one. I think there are several reasons – the first wave happened mostly in a period of nice weather, and we weren’t trying as hard to spend time with our loved ones. COVID fatigue is also setting in. We’re trying to hang in there and do the right thing, and I hope you are managing as well. As we head into budget season there is a mounting number of items being added to our contemplations, so let’s get into a few of them.
No this isn’t a typo, we had an engineering firm come look at our three dams in the SCRD (Chapman, Edwards and McNeil) and due to updated regulations by the provincial government, due in part from incidents like the Mount Polley disaster, it looks like we have to spend about $2 million to upgrade and modify our dams to bring them up to snuff. Furthermore, we will have to have regular inspections, which isn’t all that easy for Edwards and Chapman, so that will be an ongoing cost item. These costs will be carried by the water users connected to the respective dam. For the full report, feel free to read all 311 pages here.
Chapman Dam with the siphon system in the foreground
In an attempt to centralize some of the most commonly brought up topics in one place, I have created an FAQ Section to my website. Feel free to peruse and let me know what you think!
We have set our utility rates for next year, and to nobody’s surprise, they are going up. The $2 million for dam upgrades is part of the reason, the $9 million we’re borrowing to create our new well at Church Road, further feasibility studies for more water and of course the added service of food waste collection are all contributing.
We are also continuing our quest to separate user fees, used for ongoing operational funding, and frontage fees, intended for capital replacement and upgrades. Unlike property taxes, which can be deferred for seniors, the utility bills can’t, so this increase in rates can start to cause problems, and we’re well aware of that. We’re investigating ways to soften the blow. Unfortunately it looks like costs are still going to keep rising for the foreseeable future. That being said, the SCRD is still one of Canada’s most affordable water systems, one of the reasons we are increasing rates on a previously underfunded system.
Land use planning
The shíshálh Nation and the Province, in collaboration with local governments, the public, and nearby First Nations, are in the early stages of developing a shíshálh-BC Land Use Plan for Crown Land portions of the swiya, in accordance to the Foundation Agreement and including management of biodiversity, watersheds, resources important to shíshálh, and economic development. This land use planning process is long overdue and I am happy to see the Sechelt Nation assume a leading role in the process. It is essential that all stakeholders in the process get prepared for this if they want to have their interests considered, mostly by collecting hard data to support their interests. The Province is soliciting input into the process, so make sure to follow the link available on the new webpage I’ve created in my new FAQ section that further explains the need for this process. The feedback process for the Province expires on January 31st!
In order to keep adding to our water supply and reduce the water deficit we have in the summer months, the board has commissioned the drilling of another set of test wells in several locations on the Coast, including in Langdale, at Grey Creek, Frank West Hall and in the MoTI road allowance by DL1312 in Roberts Creek. We have struck water, the question now is how much we can get out of these wells. We are looking forward to the report at our Special Infrastructure Services Committee meeting on January 20th.
Committee meetings shifting
In the coming year, the Planning and Community Development Committee and the Infrastructure Services Committee have swapped their spots, meaning that ISC will be on the second Thursday of the month, and PCD on the 3rdThursday of each month. We will also be adding a new general manager of Community Services to our Senior Management Team, (we used to have one up until about 5 years ago, and we are now adding one back again) and we may have to adjust our schedule to accommodate that, as well.