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Time to expose whole water intake project, Campbell River mayor says

The city is going back to the drawing board after running into a road block in building a new drinking water system for Campbell River residents.

Jason Hartley, the city’s capital works manager, said it became apparent during the design phase of the new water intake that the original designs won’t work.

“The proposed methodology of deep excavation connection to John Hart Lake includes logistical and financial challenges not fully discovered when the preliminary planning was completed and used to derive the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding currently being finalized with BC Hydro,” Hartley wrote in a report to council. “As a result of these findings it has been determined that further investigation into viable alternative options for connecting to John Hart Lake is required.”

The city has found itself in this position because of BC Hydro’s John Hart Dam upgrade. The city currently draws its drinking water from John Hart Lake via the three penstocks at the John Hart Generating Station which deliver the water to the city’s water treatment facility. But BC Hydro will be removing those penstocks and replacing them with a more seismically sound single tunnel.

That’s left the city to come up with a new way of drawing water from John Hart Lake. BC Hydro has committed to pay up to 75 per cent of the cost to build a new water intake system but the city has to make up the remainder.

Earlier this year council budgeted $10.67 million for the project with funding provided by a combination of BC Hydro grant monies and the $200,000 remainder being funded through accumulated water surplus.

At its Tuesday meeting, council approved $303,967 in additional engineering services to come up with an alternative option for connecting the city’s new water main to John Hart Lake.

Mayor Walter Jakeway, who has maintained that it should be Hydro’s responsibility to replace the city’s water intake, said it’s time the entire project was exposed.

“I think it’s time this project comes out from the shadows and comes out in public,” Jakeway said. “A lot of money has been spent and a lot of money is going to be spent. This is the biggest piece of infrastructure and it’s going to affect the future for the next 100 years.

“I think it’s important this entire project – all of it – comes out for public scrutiny. To keep it under wraps is wrong. The public needs to see what they’re buying.”

Coun. Ron Kerr was also opposed to adding more money to the water intake project.

“I’m concerned about the lack of redundancy in the new design,” Kerr said. “The new design will only have one line from the dam to the water quality centre and this is our one source of water to the city and it’s my understanding we don’t have an alternative if that one line is shut down.”

Coun. Larry Samson said while he agreed with both of Jakeway’s and Kerr’s points, he didn’t see how voting down a change to the scope of work required for the new intake system would do the city any favours.

“To vote ‘no’ are we turning it over to BC Hydro to let them tell us what the best option is?” Samson said. “I think it’s important that we dictate with the company we hired to go forward and give us the best option.”

Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations, added that doing the changes now will allow the city to capitalize on the opportunity to combine with other required upgrades to the city’s water treatment system.

“The city’s new water main requires a design effort for the connection at the Elk Falls Water Quality Centre,” Neufeld said. “The required treatment system upgrades can be programmed so as to be completed within the same work window as the plant shutdown currently being scheduled in 2014.

“There is a savings to be had by co-ordinating the effort under one contract.”

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