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Potential operating costs, updated timeline for Lower Crown reservoir shared

The shíshálh Nation’s proposed multi-million dollar lower crown water reservoir could have annual operating costs in the $1 million range.
shíshálh Nation has proposed building two reservoirs at the Heidelberg Material mine in Sechelt.

The shíshálh Nation’s proposed multi-million dollar Lower Crown water reservoir could have annual operating costs in the $1 million range, says a Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) staff report.

“Preliminary review indicates that these annual operating costs could be substantially higher than those, for example, for the Church Road Wellfield, even when the debt payments on the long-term loan for that project are considered,” according to the report, featured on the May 23 committee of the whole meeting agenda. 

The committee update document outlines regional district efforts, under way since November, to explore the feasibility of establishing an 800,000 cubic metre storage facility on the Nation’s gravel lands and connecting that to the regional water treatment plant in upper Selma Park.

SCRD staff have “reviewed the preliminary design of the RWR (raw water reservoir) and identified several major and minor technical items to be addressed by the shíshálh Nation and its consultants," says the staff report. "Some of these items could have major implications on the operational cost and functionality of the RWR."

“Substantial” outstanding technical questions remain about addressing reservoir sediment, how to drain the reservoir annually, applicable dam safety classification and mitigation of potential toxic algae blooms, according to the report. 

Another factor regional elected officials will have to look into with this project is elector approval of any agreements required between the Nation and the SCRD. The report detailed that the province has advised that either a referendum or alternative approval process would be needed to proceed.

Next steps and proposed timelines

Advice to the SCRD elected officials is that the board consider numerous factors before confirming their support to move forward with the project.

Considerations include assessment of the short and long-term benefits of the RWR for the Chapman Water System; the financial implications, operational risks, and any terms and conditions of lease agreements with the Nation. Another consideration, according to the report, would be “the findings of an elector approval or public engagement process."

As for the Nation’s progress with the project, the SCRD staff report outlined that an updated timeline indicated that the RWR could be commissioned in late April 2025. “Permitting and electoral approval timelines, which could alter potential commissioning," were not factored in that estimate, the report noted. A best-case scenario estimates the RWR could be filled to half capacity by 2025 Stage 2 water restriction timing for the SCRD’s Chapman system. 

Paying for it all

That document also cited that earliest commissioning date was based on positive funding decisions on project grant applications from the provincial and federal governments.

There was positive news on the funding front announced in a May 15 SCRD press release. That stated, “With the generous support of Province of B.C. grant funding of over $1.2 Million, the shíshálh Nation and the SCRD are confirming the technical feasibility of the Lower Crown Raw Water Reservoir project and the annual operating costs for the SCRD regional water service participants associated with the operation of the reservoir."

In their report to committee, the SCRD staff noted that the budget of $100,000 approved by the board for background work “appears to be sufficient to cover these costs."