A happy group of local regional directors got more than they had hoped for at last week’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention in Victoria.
They came home with news that a federal-provincial infrastructure grant will allow the fifth and final phase of replacing the last 3.9 km of the old Arrow Creek water system mainline while adding a second reservoir cell in Erickson and pressure reducing valve stations.
The new one comes, coincidentally, at the same time that the fourth phase of the lengthy and costly project is almost complete.
The RDCK will receive $2,507,417 from the federal government and $1,654,895 from the Province under the New Build Canada Fund—Small Communities Fund. The grants cover 83 per cent of the project’s estimated cost, with the RDCK injecting the remaining amount.
“I need to tell you the water was flowing when we received the news, but it was tears of great joy,” RDCK director Tanya Wall, who also chairs the Arrow Creek system, said on Monday. “When you see everyone pull together and work hard and the hard work pays off and our community is fortunate to receive a grant like this that will sustain our water systems for years to come. It makes this all worth it and I was so proud of everyone, but so extremely proud to be able to come back to the Creston Valley and share this wonderful news that eases the costs directly associated to our tax payers. I was floating on cloud nine!”
“The RDCK is extremely grateful to both the federal and provincial governments for this funding, which will ease the tax burden on our residents and ensure that they have a safe and reliable source of water well into the future,” said Stuart Horn, chief administrative officer for the RDCK.
Horn notes that the remaining 17% of the project’s cost (approximately $852,522) will need to be borne by the users of the Arrow Creek water system, which will likely mean that the RDCK will seek voter approval for long term borrowing through an alternative approval process. The RDCK will keep the public updated on that process.
Creston mayor Ron Toyota said the new infrastructure funding formula is a boost for local governments, which in the past had to come up with 25 per cent of project costs. He added that years of regional directors being unable to agree on how to proceed with the huge project of replacing nearly century-old water lines are now coming to an end.
“This is about six years of frustration that should have been finished years ago but our then committee could not get traction on the approach for grant applications and funding strategy,” he said. “If all goes well by the end of 2017 this wild scenario will be behind us.”
Toyota said the Town of Creston has its share of the projects costs set aside in reserve.
Area C director Larry Binks also spoke of frustrations in not getting the project done earlier.
“This is very exciting news for the water users as this project has been ongoing for a number of years,” he said. “I cannot tell you how many meetings over the last eight years I have sat through as we worked through the process. Director Wall, chair of the Arrow Creek Water System, was the leader on this last initiative as was staff from both the town of Creston and the RDCK. Without Director Wall’s tenacity and that ‘never give up approach’ this project may never have gotten the needed funding.”
Wall said that the team approach used by director and both RDCK and Town staff was key.
“We were very fortunate to get a long meeting with (senior government) staff to explain that we had concerns about the life of the line itself but also the added costs to the project that we have seen while doing this year’s Phase 4 project. We expressed that seeing the costs increasd in Phase 4, we decided to be ready for everything for Phase 5. Our staff had re-costed the project from the original grant application and there was to be about a $1 million difference, leaving our community at risk. With that being said we laid all the numbers on the table, the concerns of not being able to put water into the infrastructure that had already been invested in and in place, the risks if the line was to rupture, but most important, our commitment and our plan to move forward.”
“The RDCK and the Town of Creston worked so hard together on this project and we want to move forward, complete this project so that we can focus on so many other things, Wall said. “Staff from the Ministry even asked about our relationship of the local governments, as it has seen a few issues in the past when it comes to this water commission. It was unanimous at the table that we are working together for the betterment of the users and our communities.”