After missing out on a sizeable grant, the District of Ucluelet has temporarily tabled its plan to use Kennedy Lake as a water source (Westerly file photo)

Ucluelet pursues $8M water upgrade

Project aims to expand water capacity while tackling town’s brown water woes.

Ucluelet has put a temporary plug in its pursuit of using Kennedy Lake as a water source and is instead eyeing a roughly $8 million upgrade to its current water system that would expand the town’s capacity while also cutting down on its notorious brown water woes.

“It would give us a significant increase in water supply and it would also add filtration to the system. Something that there has been concern in the community in my time here, for sure, and I know it’s been here for a long time, is the brown water issue; that would be significantly reduced with this new filtration system,” Ucluelet CAO Mark Boysen told the Westerly News. “We’d be adding filtration systems to our water supply system over the next couple of years, if we’re successful with this grant. So what they would do is start to alleviate, not all the time, but would significantly reduce the turbidity issue.”

Turbidity has been a consistent scapegoat for Ucluelet’s annual outrage from residents who periodically experience dark water pouring into cups, baths and laundry cycles. Ucluelet currently sources its water from four wells near the Tofino-Ucluelet junction as well as a secondary supply at Mercantile Creek.

“When the turbidity is high in the river coming down Mercantile Creek, we can’t use the water. But, when we have filtration in place, we could use the water more often so what that means is then we have increased capacity,” Boysen said adding a new reservoir would be included in the project. “Adding filtration means less turbidity, but also increased water supply…We’d have more flexibility in our system and that storage gives us more capacity, so we’d have fewer issues during the peak loads in the summertime.”

READ MORE: Water concerns pour into Ucluelet

The $8 million upgrade is contingent on a roughly $6 million grant the district expects to apply for this month, provided the town’s municipal council approves submitting the application, and Boysen said he hopes to know whether that application is successful by the end of the year.

“That would be ideal, to hear by the end of the year and then we could initiate the early stages of the project in 2021. That’s an ideal timeline,” he said.

The district had applied for a $45 million grant to put towards an estimated $55 million project to use Kennedy Lake as a water source, but the town’s priorities changed when that application was denied.

“That’s not a priority anymore for us,” Boysen said. “We really see Kennedy Lake as a regional water supply down the road. I think, eventually, there might be a need for a Kennedy Lake water project.”

READ MORE: Ucluelet eyes Kennedy Lake as potential water source for growing community

He added he was not surprised to see Ucluelet’s $45 million request turned down after Tofino received roughly $40 million from the federal and provincial governments for its wastewater treatment plant project.

“I’d say that if Tofino got their grant for their sewage system, it would be very unlikely that we were going to get another $45 million put our way,” he said.

“It’s reasonable to think that they don’t want to continually pump $50 million here and there into our region, but we have a lot going on and the provincial support has been great so far.”

READ MORE: Tofino receives more than $40M in funding for new sewage treatment plant

He added the Kennedy Lake idea has not been scrapped entirely and the door is still open for regional conversations about a potential collaborative project, though he added that if the $8 million grant application is successful, Ucluelet would likely be all set to fulfill its water needs for the next 10 years.

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READ MORE: Millstream water rates see heavy rise

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READ MORE: VIDEO: Ucluelet engages at open house

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