Results from the third phase of the groundwater investigation for the well field near Church Road have come back promising excellent water quality and lots of it – but the cost of the project has swelled to $8.27 million.
Marta Green of Associated Environmental presented the findings on Dec. 12 at the last planning and community development committee meeting of the year, and a week after Round 1 budget deliberations finished.
Green described the water quality, which meets Canadian Drinking Water Quality standards, as “really, really, really excellent.”
“Merry Christmas,” she said.
At 57.6 litres per second, the well field, comprising two eight-inch wells, could produce enough water to reduce the 2025 water supply deficit by approximately 55 per cent, if per capita water consumption is reduced by 20 per cent, compared to 2010 levels. “It’s substantial and it’s even more than we were expecting based on the results from Phase 2,” said infrastructure general manager Remko Rosenboom.
However the cost to develop the wells is also more than expected.
Initial estimates put the price for the well field at $3.1 million to develop it, but the estimate nearly tripled because the project itself has grown thanks to the amount of water available. The new plan would see the wells linked up to the Reed Road pump station via a new watermain. Doing so would allow the water to be distributed to the entire southern portion of the Sunshine Coast, including Roberts Creek “and into the Sechelt area,” said Rosenboom, adding: “We think that’s an additional value to the community.”
The cost to drill the well is approximately $200,000. The major expenses are found in the design and construction costs, including installing the watermains.
No other wells are expected to be impacted in the area, however testing did show a flow reduction in Soames Creek, which would need to be mitigated by artificial flows. The Granthams Well would also be decommissioned as part of the process. During her presentation, Green said she believed there were other places that could be explored for groundwater in the area and around Langdale, but not as far as Roberts Creek.
The news of the larger-than-expected wells also prompted a question by Sechelt director Darnelda Siegers on reservoirs, since the board is considering moving ahead with the next phases to develop a $53-million reservoir – a decision expected to be finalized in Round 2 of budget deliberations early in the new year.
“At what point … do we take a shift depending on what happens with regards to wells?” said Siegers. “We don’t want to get to the end of the year or into next year and say we’ve done all this plan and design for this really big reservoir and then say well, we don’t need that bigger reservoir and have to go back and rejig some of that.”
Rosenboom responded that the next phase for the reservoir will provide enough information to establish whether it is “even a realistic option.”
“At this point in time, if you were to compare the level of design and cost assessments … this [well field] project is way more shovel-ready than the other project and that’s why I’m recommending to move forward with the next phase of the reservoir project to more precisely see what the actual costs would be and then maybe take a breath and see if there’s a desire to move forward at that point in time.”
After more discussion, directors voted unanimously that a budget proposal for Phase 4 of the groundwater investigation be brought to Round 2.
At that point directors will also decide how to pay for the project if they decide to move ahead with it, which could involve applying for grants and proceeding with an alternative approval process or referendum.
Directors were presented with both a “relaxed” and “accelerated” timeline at the meeting, which could have more cost implications. The accelerated timeline would see the well field commissioned at the end of July 2021 and the relaxed schedule in February 2022.
Staff cautioned that if they do apply for a grant, they couldn’t start construction or award tenders before final approval, which could delay the commissioning date for the project by half a year to fall 2021 if they chose the accelerated option.