Chriss Gates and Thomas Gates of the Stop Bowser Ocean Sewage group, try to convince the Regional District Board of Nanaimo not to proceed with the marine outfall optionn for the Bowser Village Wastewater Project. — MIchael Briones photo

RDN to proceed with Bowser Wastewater Project

Board endorse plan to work on design, tendering and construction of the sewer system

Despite facing possible legal repercussions and strong protest from residents, the Regional District of Nanaimo is going to proceed with the controversial Bowser Village Wastewater Project.

The board, at its final regular meeting of 2017 on Tuesday night, approved the Bowser Village Sanitary Sewer Service Establishment Bylaw No. 1760, 2017; Bowser Village Sanitary Sewer Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 1761, 2017; and Bowser Village Sanitary Sewer Service Development Cost Charge Bylaw No. 1765, 2017.

With the bylaws now officially in place, the RDN will enter into a Development Cost Charge (DCC) Front-ender Amendment agreement, dated Dec. 12, with four local developers who will be financing $2.6 million of the $10.7 project. The wastewater project was previously granted $7.6 million under the federal and provincial Clean Water and Wastewater Fund (CWWF).

As a condition of the agreement, the developers were required to submit certified funds, rather than a letter of credit, prior to the adoption of the bylaws on Tuesday night.

With the new bylaws now adopted, the RDN will be able to access the $7.6 million CWWF funding, complete the design and put out a tender and construction of the sewer system. The condition of the CWWF requires the project to be completed by March 31, 2019.

The board has authorized staff to negotiate revised fees with Stantec and GreatPacific Consulting Inc. for engineering, tender preparation, and permitting for the project within the approved budget, and not to exceed $400,000.

The proposed sewer service will serve 99 property owners, representing 107 parcels in the Bowser Village Centre. A petition process was held to gauge the support of the residents and 62.6 per cent of owners, representing 67 of the parcels, voted in favour of the project.

The property owners who will benefit from the service will be required to pay the remainder of the cost not covered by the CWWF — around $500,000 — as well as the operating and maintenance costs once the service is in place.

Based on assessed values that may be needed to be recovered for debt servicing, approximately $47,000 annually, and operating costs of $150,000 annually, the maximum amount ratepayers in the new service will face is $197,000 each year.

Residents outside the proposed service area have expressed strong opposition to the marine disposal option chosen for the project. The majority expressed these concerns at RDN-hosted public information sessions, in letters sent to the regional district, and online.

The project consists of a collection system, treatment system and marine disposal, which Randy Alexander, general manager for regional and community utilities, indicated are a “proven and reliable method of managing treated effluent.”

The design, Alexander added, will meet or exceed all federal and provincial regulations. There will be secondary treatment of the effluent with ultraviolet disinfection.

Two representatives of the group Stop Bowser Ocean Sewage, campaign director Thomas Gates and Chriss Gates, appeared as a delegation to try and convince the board not to proceed with the project’s marine outfall and possibly avoid litigation.

Their lawyers, Thomas said, have informed the RDN board twice, in August and December, of their intention to file legal proceedings in the event the project is developed in such a way so as to have a negative impact on their clients’ interests, including but not limited to, negative effects on property values and on the environment. If this case proceeds, the costs of any litigation would be shouldered by service area participants.

Thomas said to date, the RDN has not responded to their lawyers. He also pointed out that no consultation outside the Bowser Village Centre has been organized, nor formal consultations with the First Nations.

“Sixty-two (per cent of) people got to decide on the sewer service in a petition out of almost 4,000 residents,” Thomas told the board. “Does that sound fair?”

Thomas said the RDN has ignored residents’ concerns and feeback on the project. He pointed out the 644-person petition against the use of the beach access on Noonday Road, where a pipeline would be laid for discharge of treated sewage into the Salish Sea, has not been taken seriously.

“Chair (Bill) Veenhof and board members’ consultation, without making changes based on the people’s wishes, and ignoring rights, has frankly become insulting,” said Thomas. “Bowser and Area H deserves better.”

Thomas said his group does not agree with the RDN’s position that the marine outfall is the only solution, as there are engineering reports that dictate otherwise.

Veenhoff said the detailed design will address the outfall and that staff is looking at alternate outfall locations and green alternatives that will help them make informed decision in the coming months.

Veenhof said two engineers have evaluated land disposal options and concluded that the marine outfall was the better plan.

“I have to take those studies and staff at their word in regards to that,”’ said Veenhof.

Nanaimo Director Bill Yoachim commented that he has not seen any report regarding consultation with the First Nation and without that, he would not support it.

Alexander said a consultation was held with the Qualicum First Nation but only to inform them about the project. A formal consultation will be held now that the project has the green light.

The board approved five recommendations with Yoachim and Nanaimo directors Bill Bestwick and Gordon Fuller opposed.

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