French Creek residents opt out of water service

Residents’ association president says people in French Creek don’t want to pay for a service they won’t be around to use in 20 years time

French Creek is out of the Englishman River Water Service (ERWS) at the residents association’s urging.

The ERWS is a joint venture of the Regional District of Nanaimo and City of Parksville to develop an aquifer storage and recovery system, new river water intake and treatment facility.

Partly at the request of the French Creek Residents’ Association, the management board of the ERWS voted to remove French Creek at their June 6 regular meeting in Parksville.

“We were told we don’t need the water until 2030-35 at the earliest,” said Michael Jessen, president of the residents association.

“There’s a different kind of attitude around here, people only have a 20-year horizon. People think why am I going to pay for it if I don’t need it,” he said of what was estimated to be an annual $200 to $300 per household cost.

He said they held a secret ballot survey at a general meeting and though he admits it was a small sample, the vote was overwhelmingly in support of leaving the ERWS.

“They’ve deferred those costs about 20 years to future generations when they need the water,” said ERWS/AWS manager Mike Squire explaining there is a formulation included that means they will have to pay the interest on the deferred costs if or when they need the water.

The RDN community will remain a partner in the related Arrowsmith Water Service which manages the Arrowsmith Dam.

There is a lot of background information on the AWS/ERWS website at

• Meanwhile, the Englishman River Water Service is almost ready to start testing the proposed aquifer storage and recovery system (ASR) which is an important step to building a new river water intake and treatment facility.

The ERWS is a joint venture of the Regional District of Nanaimo and City of Parksville to develop an ASR which would store treated water in an underground aquifer for use in the dry season, which would allow a smaller treatment facility.

At the June 6 management board meeting, hydrogeologist Dennis Lowen gave an update on the project, which would be the first in B.C. and one of the first in the country. Though new to the area, it is more common in other areas of the world, including as close as Oregon.

The project is set to begin the physical test phase, with the test well expected to be drilled by the end of June. They will slowly inject water into the chosen aquifer on Kaye Road near the weigh scales from mid-July to October and then switch to pulling water out for the next couple months.

The water and capacity of the aquifer will be extensively tested explained ERWS manager Mike Squire.

The board heard that from the test data so far the aquifer looks ideal, contained between layers of clay and under property owned by the RDN and city.

They eventually hope to reach a capacity around 70 litres per second — just below the 75 L/s provincial threshold where extensive environmental reviews kick — but plan to start slow and build up as they test and prove that the technology works.

“The success of ASR is very important to our entire communities,” summed up ERWS chair Joe Stanhope.

The hope is that they will know enough about whether ASR will work by February so they can start the preliminary design work on the new intake and treatment facility which will be based on the amount of water that can be stored in the aquifer.

The water licence has now been amended to relocate the new intake further upstream, above Highway 19 and though Squire said there is still a lot of correspondence and detail to work out, they are over most of the big hurdles to building the treatment facility on land the city owns in the industrial park.

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