Regional District of Nanaimo Electoral Area H (Deep Bay, Bowser and Qualicum Bay) director Stuart McLean had mixed feelings about the cancellation of the $10.7-million Bowser Village Sewer Project.
McLean is pleased the area prevented an environmental dilemma but he was also unhappy about losing the $7.6-million joint Federal and Provincial Clean Water and Wastewater Fund grant that was awarded to the project.
“The residents of Bowser have lost a very significant grant funding opportunity,” said McLean. “This was the least favourable outcome in my opinion. I had hoped that we could explore a land-based alternative for effluent disposal to both protect our environment, and provide a centralized sewer system for the future growth of Bowser.”
The RDN board, at its regular meeting on March 26, stopped the project, citing scheduling and cost constraints as the reasons. The grant allocated to the project required the RDN to complete the sewer facility in 2019. The district requested an extension of up to the end of 2020 but were granted only up to March 31, which the RDN consultants said was not possible.
The plan was to build a collection system, wastewater treatment and effluent disposal for the Bowser Village Centre to support future growth in the Bowser Village area. It was to service 99 parcels.
There was opposition to the project but mainly on the plan to discharge treated wastewater into the Salish Sea and Baynes Sound. Two groups — the Stop Ocean Sewage Bowser and Area H Residents Association — led the fight against the marine outfall option of the proposed sewage services.
McLean said Bowser needs the sewer system to build the community to its full density potential.
“It is needed,” said McLean. “It is still going to be built, I want to be pretty clear on that. I am not against development. I am a carpenter by trade so I am all for building houses. People need places to live.”
The Bowser project was already at the design and detail stage before it was cancelled. McLean indicated they will now have to find the financial resources to get it built. Securing another grant would be difficult, said McLean.
“It’s not going to come back easily,” said McLean. “Once you passed it over once, generally you’re not the first in line again. So I am very conflicted for sure.”
McLean said he will have to talk to the RDN staff to find out what they can do to get the project going. He anticipates a long process to get them back to where they are now.
“I have confidence that Bowser is going to be a thriving village but it’s not going to happen soon,” said McLean.
The groups that fought to convince the RDN to look for a land disposal option also didn’t want to see the whole project cancelled.
“We remain supportive of careful development initiatives in Bowser – just not at the expense of our marine ecology,” said Brian Holyk, executive director of Area H Residents Association. “Our belief is that the best opportunity ahead is to become a model green community – one that uses innovative on-land disposal technology for its wastewater and is truly sustainable. Change must start somewhere and today it started in Area H on Vancouver Island. The biggest winner is the environment.”