Ucluelet’s brown water woes continue to darken local moods. (Maggie Gilbert photo)

Ucluelet’s brown water woes continue to darken local moods. (Maggie Gilbert photo)

Water, water everywhere and not a drop for free: Ucluelet’s water treatment upgrade costs double

The original $9.6 million project estimate from 2020 has jumped to $20.7 million

The price tag for Ucluelet’s water treatment system upgrades has doubled.

During the Feb. 22 regular council meeting, Ucluelet’s director of engineering James Macintosh told council that the original $9.6 million estimate from 2020 was re-estimated in December 2021 at $20.7 million.

Ucluelet’s water treatment and capacity upgrades include: improving the Lost Shoe Creek Wellfield with a filtration for manganese removal, improving the Mercantile Creek water source to include a filtration, and constructing a third reservoir near the Highway Reservoir to increase storage capacity.

“The decisions today effect the water quality and finances for citizens of Ucluelet potentially for the next 30 years,” said Macintosh.

In August 2021, the Governments of Canada and British Columbia awarded the District of Ucluelet $7,039,680 in funding for the Project through Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program’s Green Infrastructure Stream. This grant would have covered about 75 per cent of the estimated cost, leaving Ucluelet residents on the hook to pick up the remaining about $2.5 million.

“Costs are escalating very, very quickly,” said Macintosh. “The grant cannot be increased nor can the scope of the project be decreased without defaulting the shared cost agreement.”

Macintosh presented council with three options to deliberate over: Option A, to wholly approve the project at it’s re-estimated cost and move forward on schedule, which would mean taking out a loan of up to $15 million, Option B, to partially approve the project and defer the loan until preliminary designs are complete, and Option C, to forgo the grant and focus on a rigorous maintenance routine of flushing and cleaning the system.

He said district staff recommend Option A as “it is the quickest, most efficient path to bring Ucluelet’s drinking water to within acceptable levels defined by the Canadian Clean Water Drinking Act” and it also avoids having to go back to council for decisions during the autumn election.

After some discussion on whether to take out an $8 million or $13 million loan, council unanimously voted in favour of Option A, wholly approving the project and initiating the process of taking out a $13 million loan for the water treatment upgrades.

Ucluelet’s chief administrative officer Duane Lawrence said moving through the Alternative Approval Process for the loan takes about three months.

“We have to move fairly quickly through the process at which time we are asking the public for their approval of the project by not disagreeing with moving forward,” said Lawrence.

Chief financial officer Donna Monteith said financial implications for property taxes would be presented to council in March.

“We’ll have some funding options of how we’re going to pay for that because clearly you know $8 million or $13 million is going to create a yearly payment of $300,000 to $400,000 a year. But we are not going to take all $20 million if we don’t need to,” said Monteith.

RELATED: Ucluelet receives over $7 million in funding for water upgrades



nora.omalley@westerlynews.ca

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