Qualicum Beach negotiates a water buy-in

The Arrowsmith Water Service draws its supply from this dam on the Englishman RIver. - News file photo
The Arrowsmith Water Service draws its supply from this dam on the Englishman RIver.
— image credit: News file photo

After a long tough process the Arrowsmith Water Service settled important governance and funding issues at their latest meeting.

At their June 23 meeting, the City of Parksville, Regional District of Nanaimo and Town of Qualicum Beach signed the new joint venture agreement settling issues sparked by Qualicum Beach being reluctant to share the cost of the imminent capital infrastructure work.

The new agreement gives the partners weighted voting power depending on their level of ownership, giving Parksville three votes, the RDN two, and one to Qualicum Beach.

The ownership proportions remain the same, with Parksville at 63.9 per cent, the RDN owning 22.4 per cent and Qualicum Beach at 13.7 per cent, but Qualicum Beach will not contribute to the costs of the new Englishman River intake and water treatment facility in Parksville, with the option to buy its way in later.

When the town needs the water, they will be able to buy their way in by paying their portion of the original construction costs, plus the Consumer Price Index inflation costs.

“I’d like to compliment the staff,” said AWS board representative from Parksville Marc Lefebvre. “This is a demonstration of what we can do when we work together. On behalf of Parksville I would rather have had Qualicum Beach participate in the costs, but it’s understandable.”

A recent report confirmed that by 2050 Parksville — which already uses river water in the peak summer periods — will take 54 per cent of its bulk water from the river.

Nanoose Bay will need 22 per cent, French Creek will need 18 per cent and Qualicum Beach will only need six per cent.

“We’ve had a good relationship and its good we will be going forward,” said Qualicum Beach representative Barry Avis. “There’s no question of our support for the Arrowsmith Water Service.”

Parksville acting mayor Chris Burger said the agreement provides stability moving forward and allows them to approach senior levels of government for funding with a united front.

RDN chair and AWS board member Joe Stanhope called it a milestone agreement and said it was not only good for the residents of Oceanside, but pointed out fish habitat comes first in the language, stressing the importance of considering the wildlife and environment in the process.

The updated agreement, established in 1996 and last updated in 2006, includes a new provision giving right of first refusal of any assets to the partners to keep it in local government ownership.

Carol Mason, RDN chief administrative officer, explained there were a number of issues with the old agreement, including out of date language. 

The new agreement makes it clear the AWS management board can’t supersede local municipal decisions, better reflects local government structures and includes clearer rules for new or withdrawing partners and the disposition of the entire venture to ensure protecting public ownership, she said.

Meanwhile the public and board heard an update on the intake and treatment facility progress, still in the early planning stages.

Staff presented an implementation schedule laying out many parallel tracks of study, planning, exploring funding options and public information, with open houses in 2013 leading to a public referendum in 2014 or 2015, hoping to begin construction in 2015.

The recent report estimated at a conceptual level that the first stage will cost $37 million in 2010 dollars, with a total cost of $52 million over the next 40 years.

The new river intake and treatment facility are required for Parksville and parts of the RDN to meet their projected water needs in the near future. A recent Qualicum Beach report found they will not likely need to supplement their existing city water wells.

The board heard that they have met all the conditions to purchase the needed land for the facility along the river behind the city works yard in the industrial park and hope to close at the end of June.

There is a lot of information on the service’s website at, which they intend to keep up to date as a key part of their communication strategy.


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