Putting the whoa to a well in Nanoose Bay

Residents tell RDN they fear water shortages from development

Nanoose Bay residents won’t be left high and dry after putting up a fight for water.

Instead, developers of a subdivision in Nanoose Bay will have to wait at least one year before putting their well into service — pending further discussion with residents.

The motion was unanimously passed at Tuesday evening’s RDN committee of the whole meeting where seven Nanoose Bay residents made passionate pleas in an effort to protect their water source from a looming Maz-Can Investment Ltd. development.

According to Parksville Coun. Marc Lefebvre “water is the new oil. It’s a finite resource and this issue of water isn’t going away. It’s going to increase in terms of complexity.”

Lefebvre was responding to the presentations made before the board, where residents expressed disappointment in the regional district. They’re concerned with well servicing at a subdivision development along Oak Leaf Drive that neighbours fear will create water problems in the area.

Melissa MacNeill said in 2010 her well was monitored during the developer’s test period. MacNeill said her well is 300 feet from the subject well and a hydrologist established connectivity between the two during the time of testing.

“As they started to draw on the subject well my static level dropped by 30 feet,” she said. “The only factor monitored was the static level — neither the changes to my water quality nor flow rate was monitored.”

MacNeill said she was informed “the change wasn’t viewed as significant.” However, she said “the current contract between the RDN and Maz-Can allows the subject well to be pumped at a rate of 86.6 gallons per minute.” MacNeill fears that might lead to water shortages. “My well currently produces 4.66 gallons per minute,” she said. “That’s a rate of 18.5 times the total production of my well.”

MacNeill said she purchased her parcel of ALR land for the purpose of farming. “Any changes in the productivity of the well will significantly inhibit my ability to use and develop my land for the purpose of agriculture now and in the future,” she said.

Randy Alexander, RDN general manager of regional and community utilities, confirmed Maz-Can does have a development proposal underway in Nanoose Bay slated to accommodate 16 to 20 units.

Alexander said the company started putting in piping and a treatment system, however they are still subject to approval from both the Agricultural Land Commission and RDN.

RDN CAO Paul Thorkelsson said the developer’s are going ahead at their own risk considering they still need local and provincial approval.

“It’s a bit of a no-man’s process,” said Thorkelsson. “What do you do if the developer feels like the time for development approval is slow and taking too long and the certainly the delegations feel it’s moving too fast … I’m not sure where the answer in it all is.”

Thorkelsson said “there is without question adequate water available … too much in terms of what that property developer could use for his own purposes and the well has significantly higher capacity than what they need for their subdivision.”

Alexander confirmed that this means there is room for growth.

“People could also utilize that capacity if they decided to develop their property in Nanoose Bay,” he said. “It allows people to come to the developer and enter into an agreement to allocate a portion of their water as proof that a water supply is here.”

This has Ken Collingwood concerned.

“We (Nanoose residents) are opposed to the exchange of water for development approvals and the sale of water,” said Collingwood, who also made a presentation Tuesday night. “The extraction of such a large part of water may result in a loss of water volume in any or all of our wells. Water quality could be affected.”

RDN director George Holme, who represents Nanoose Bay, made the motion directing staff to delay putting the well into regular service in the Nanoose Bay Peninsula Water Service for a period of at least one year pending further discussion with residents. Staff was also directed to develop a local well monitoring program within the next year to ensure the operation of this well does not impact the surrounding wells.

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