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Ucluelet receives over $7 million in funding for water upgrades

Infrastructure project will expand water capacity while tackling town’s brown water woes
Ucluelet council, front row from left, Coun. Marilyn McEwen, Mayor Mayco Noël, and Coun. Lara Kemps. Back row, from left, Coun. Rachelle Cole and Coun. Jennifer Hoar. (District of Ucluelet photo)

Ucluelet’s water system is getting a boost.

On Aug. 12, the governments of Canada and British Columbia announced funding of over $7 million for the District of Ucluelet to improve its local water treatment system and storage capacity for drinking water.

Mayor Mayco Noël says the news is a big win for the entire peninsula.

“We know the community is growing in the next 25 to 30 years and this will help us be able deal with the growth here in the foreseeable future,” he said, noting that the District of Ucluelet’s water and sewer is connected to the Ucluelet First Nation’s community of Hitacu, which is located across the harbour from Ucluelet.

The District of Ucluelet’s water treatment and capacity upgrades include: adding a water treatment plant at the Mercantile Creek water source, adding filtration of the well field that pulls from Lost Shoe Creek, and adding a third reservoir to the Ucluelet drinking water system.

“We’ve been holding our breath for about six months (for this announcement). As a council we really pushed hard as Kennedy Lake as a water source. We spent some tax payers money on checking out the quality, but there really wasn’t an appetite for a regional water source,” said Noël.

“We couldn’t get any momentum, so we had to make that decision that we need to look after our district needs as well as Ucluelet First Nation, so we made that decision to move the direction on the volumes that we take out of our current existing aquifer,” he went on to say.

The entire cost for the municipal water system upgrades works out to be about $9.6 million. Ucluelet residents are on the hook for approximately $2.5 million.

“We have slight increases over the next five years. We have put in small increases in order to address the shortcomings for our portion of the water system,” Noël said.

He says activity on the project will kick off in the New Year with filtration being priority number one.

Brown water woes or 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.

“We will see more of an aggressive approach on the brown water that seems to be escalating lately. We are going to be doing more of an attack on flushing the system. Now that we have this grant money, we will be able hopefully to deal with this appropriately,” said Noël.

READ: Water concerns pour into Ucluelet

The Honourable Josie Osborne, B.C.’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and the former mayor of Tofino, offered her support for the project.

“Investing in infrastructure is investing in people, and these projects we’re announcing (on Aug 12) with our federal partners will benefit people for generations to come – not only by supporting cleaner, healthier communities, but also by creating important infrastructure jobs that contribute to local economic growth. In the coming months and years, I hope to be able to tour in-person the many upgraded and new water and wastewater facilities being made possible across B.C. with this funding,” said Osborne in a media release.

The Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia are investing a total of $110.3 million in 14 water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure projects throughout the province via the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program’s Green Infrastructure Stream.

RELATED: Ucluelet’s municipal tax rates increase by 1%

- With a file from Andrew Bailey

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