Victoria mayor: Funding for sewer treatment in jeopardy

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VICTORIA — A multimillion-dollar project to introduce sewage treatment to the Victoria region — mired since a suburban city refused to rezone the property for the treatment plant — is in trouble, Victoria’s mayor says.

“In my mind, it [federal and provincial funding] is at jeopardy,” Mayor Dean Fortin told the City Council.

With no progress on building a plant since the town of Esquimalt refused rezoning last spring, about $500 million in funding could be lost, Fortin said.

Without the funding, the Capital Regional District cannot meet a 2020 deadline imposed by the Canadian federal government.

The multigovernment agency, which goes by the initials CRD, is spearheading the effort to end the discharge of untreated effluent from the 300,000-population region into the Strait of Juan de Fuca through two 39-inch pipes extended from the Victoria Harbour area.

Fortin lamented how politics have entered the project, including the prospect of Vancouver-area communities on the British Columbia mainland siphoning off the sewage-treatment funds earmarked for Victoria.

“Let’s just say this right now,” he told City Council members last week.

“They have a Conservative member of Parliament and they have a Liberal provincial member of parliament.

“So as we flounder around in this region, unable to come up with any direction and move forward, there is the concern and the risk that that money goes over to those who have their act together and the need.”

The City Council directed the Victoria city staff to develop a plan that will identify legally available options for a Victoria-only system as well as a cooperative system with the suburbs of Saanich and/or Oak Bay.

The Canadian federal and provincial governments have promised to pay most of a treatment plant’s cost by contributing a combined $501.4 million ($461.82 million U.S.) if treatment starts in 2018.

The total estimated cost is $783 million ($721.6 million U.S.), the remainder picked up by the CRD and Victoria-area taxpayers.

But the project hit the skids last spring when the Esquimalt Town Council refused to rezone property, McLoughlin Point at the entrance of Victoria Harbour, for the treatment plant.

After that action, several political leaders from the U.S. side of the Strait, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer — whose 6th Congressional District includes the North Olympic Peninsula — publicly notified Inslee’s B.C. counterpart, Premier Christy Clark, of their outrage over the raw effluent and the project’s apparent disarray.

Last modified: September 02. 2014 6:42PM
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