SCRD directors vote to expand search for wells

Directors supported staff recommendations to move ahead with a budget proposal to investigate potential well sites at a private property near Gray Creek, and then went a step further with a motion to look at expanding the hunt for groundwater to other sites on the Sunshine Coast.

“I’d like to see this place turned into Swiss cheese before I put my hand up for that reservoir,” said Roberts Creek director Andreas Tize at a Nov. 21 infrastructure committee meeting, referencing a $53-million reservoir proposal directors are also considering as a solution to the water shortage on the Sunshine Coast.

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The idea to expand the search for groundwater emerged after Elphinstone director Donna McMahon asked whether staff were looking at other aquifer sites.

Remko Rosenboom, infrastructure services manager, said staff “have [their] eyes and ears open” for other potential sites, and since they expect to ship a drilling rig to the Coast for further testing at the new Gray Creek site, he speculated they could save money if they pursue other options they “have anecdotal evidence about” at the same time.

Tize, who mentioned anecdotal reports of high-yield wells in Roberts Creek, later formalized the motion for a budget proposal “to assess the potential feasibility of additional production well sites on the Sunshine Coast,” which directors supported unanimously.

During the meeting, directors also received an update on the four well sites investigated in Phase 2 of the Groundwater Investigation Project: Church Road, Gray Creek, Mahan Road and Dusty Road.

Based on that update, they voted to move ahead with investigating Gray Creek, but at a different site on private property, and to drop the Mahan Road and Dusty Road sites.

More details are expected in December on the status of the Church Road well-site investigation, but a staff report confirmed “the development of a productive well field at this site is indeed feasible.”

While the original test location at Gray Creek didn’t hit an aquifer, staff have since met with the owners of Northern Divine Aquafarms Ltd., located on Sechelt Inlet Road, who agreed to “collaborate on the development of a production well for a community water supply on their property,” on the condition that it not impact their operations or water rights, according to a staff report. Previous reports have indicated the aquifer could be high-yield.

Area A director Leonard Lee noted the report indicated results for the Gray Creek site wouldn’t be ready until late 2020 and asked if “there was anything we could do to move that up.”

Rosenboom explained the results have to wait because the ideal time to test the well is during the driest months in summer, usually August, to observe potential impacts to other wells.

A new production well drilled by the Town of Gibsons near the SCRD’s test well at Mahan Road has made it unlikely the SCRD could obtain a licence for that location, and the risk of contamination at the Dusty Road site, from future quarry activity, the Sechelt landfill and the District of Sechelt’s sewage disposal site, were factors in staff’s recommendation to avoid those options.

Consultants had warned about the quarry risk when Dusty Road was discussed last January, but directors had voted to move ahead to gather more information.

Later in the meeting, directors also voted in favour of another budget proposal, this time to expand the existing water conservation rebate program, including a BC Hydro Applicant Rebate Program.

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