Tofino pursues $40 million grant for sewage treatment

Tofino pursues $40 million grant for sewage treatment

“If we don’t see this $40 million grant, I don’t see that there’s a way for this project to get done.”

Facing a 2020 deadline to stop pumping untreated sewage into the ocean, Tofino has put together a $55 million wastewater treatment plan, but isn’t exactly flush with that kind of cash.

The district has applied for a roughly $40 million grant from the federal government to help cover the project’s tab.

Tofino’s Chief Administrative Officer Bob MacPherson said that the proposed project would most likely be quashed if the district does not receive the grant, or receives only a portion of what it’s asking for.

“If we only get $25 million, we can’t do this project,” he said. “What we could do is start a project and not finish it, which obviously we wouldn’t do…I don’t want to say it’s all or nothing, but it’s pretty close to all or nothing. If we don’t see this $40 million grant, I don’t see that there’s a way for this project to get done.”

As part of the grant application, Tofino’s municipal council gave its staff the authority to borrow up to $16 million to cover the remaining cost.

A report from the district’s Director of Finance Nyla Attiana suggests Tofino would pay off that loan over 30 years with annual payments of roughly $896,419, which would be collected through an approximately 11 per cent residential property tax increase.

That increase equates to 65 cents per $1,000 of a residence’s assessed value. A $500,000 home, for example, would pay an additional $326 per year, according to Attiana. Business tax bills are expected to go up an estimated 12 per cent.

If built, the proposed wastewater facility would run an estimated annual operating cost of $612,182, which would be paid for through an approximately 91 per cent increase in utility bill sewer charges. The average Tofitian residence currently pays about $290 in annual sewer charges each year and the wastewater facility would bump that up to $554.

Mayor Josie Osborne noted that these dollar amounts do not account for the financial contributions the district expects to receive from both Parks Canada and the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. Tofino’s district office also plans to pursue other granting streams to decrease the capital cost loan.

Tofino is not alone in its current lack of wastewater treatment as Vancouver Island communities Victoria, Oak Bay, Saanich, Langford, Colwood, Esquimalt and View Royal are also facing the 2020 deadline imposed by the federal government in 2015. It has not been made clear what penalties the communities would face if they fail to meet that deadline.

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