Water topics occupied much of the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) infrastructure services committee’s time last week.
The committee’s Sept. 17 meeting included reports on the current state of the water supply as well as a recommendation on moving ahead with an Alternative Approval Process (AAP) to fund the next phase of water meter installations.
General manager of infrastructure services Remko Rosenboom told the committee that were it not for major rainfall events on Aug. 20 and 21, when more than 120 millimetres of rain fell into the lakes supplying the Chapman system, the SCRD would have had to go to Stage 4.
As it is, weather patterns are now expected to bring enough rain to keep the system at Stage 1 heading into fall and winter.
Rosenboom also said water consumption statistics for the Chapman system showed no longer supplying water for Zone 3 in the Town of Gibsons shaved between six and seven per cent off the total consumption numbers.
That prompted Roberts Creek director Andreas Tize to ask whether there will have to be a rate adjustment for other users on the Champman system to make up for “a six per cent drop in people paying for water?”
Rosenboom said that question will be addressed when staff comes back to the board with water rate proposals for 2021.
The committee also voted to confirm recommendations to move forward with an Alternative Approval Process (AAP) on the long-term borrowing that will be needed to fund water meter installations in the Sechelt area.
Planning for the AAP was put on hold at the start of the pandemic.
Local governments also have the option to move directly to a referendum if an AAP fails.
Directors on the committee offered differing opinions on whether a referendum would be necessary.
Elphinstone Director Donna McMahon said she had “some hesitation about holding a referendum in the middle of a pandemic.”
And Mark Hiltz, director for West Howe Sound, asked, given that AAPs are generally used when citizens are “reasonably in favour” of a proposal, whether it’s correct to assume they are in this case. He suggested that the regional district’s water supply advisory committee should be asked to weigh in on the question, since “they’re representing citizens in some ways.”
Sechelt director Alton Toth said the regional district has to make use of the tools it’s given and moved that the committee recommend an AAP, with the option to hold a referendum within 80 days if the APP fails.
The committee voted unanimously in favour, and the SCRD board will confirm the final details later this year when the borrowing bylaw is expected to come forward.
A previous water-meter AAP was defeated in July 2018 after almost 2,500 elector response forms were submitted to the SCRD opposing a $6-million long-term loan for the project. Earlier this year, the cost of the loan was pegged at $7 million.