Stories Beach area sewer project may have new life

The Strathcona Regional District is re-evaluating a plan to connect areas south of Campbell River to the city’s sewer system

The Strathcona Regional District is re-evaluating a plan to connect areas south of Campbell River to the city’s sewer system.

Over the past month, an engineer has been studying the Area D sewer project in order to update plans that were drafted five years ago.

“It’s been a few years so we want to make sure our costs are as accurate as they can be,” said Russ Hotsenpiller, community services manager with the Strathcona Regional District. “We’re working on what configuration is the most efficient for the actual system.”

That includes analyzing where connection lines might be located and how many pump stations are needed.

Phase one of the project would connect 172 homes in the Ocean Grove and Crawford Loop neighbourhoods to the City of Campbell River’s sewer system. Subsequent phases are supposed to extend the project southward to include Mittlenatch, Stories Beach and York Road subdivisions.

The homes are currently on septic systems.

Construction of the sewer system was tentatively scheduled for 2009 and is valued at $5.1 million.

Affected residents voted in a referendum in 2006 and voted in favour (52 per cent) of the regional district borrowing $9,250, for the collection and disposal of sewage. Properties benefiting from the sewer service would then cover those costs in either one lump sum or spread out over a 25-year period.

The regional district then applied for and received $3.4 million in provincial and federal grant funding for the estimated $5.1 million project.

But trying to acquire that funding and securing an agreement with the city has caused delays, Hotsenpiller said.

The city submitted a sewer connection proposal to the regional district on Oct. 10, which it thought was in line with what electors voted for in the referendum.

“Looking at the numbers, it’s generally in the range of my understanding of what was approved at the referendum,” said City Manager Andy Laidlaw last month.

But Hotsenpiller said the price tag was too high.

“The initial offer from Campbell River was significantly more, that’s what’s led us to look at the investment again from the engineer’s point of view to make sure we’re apples to apples,” Hotsenpiller said. “Once we come to an understanding with Campbell River, we’ll have to go back to the community and see if there an appetite for this, are the costs appropriate or not.”

Some residents eagerly awaiting the sewer system, such as Karen Van Male, have given up hope the project will ever come to fruition because it’s been six years since the referendum with no targeted date for construction in sight.

“We have had three groups down here and nothing flies,” Van Male said. “Just a lot of hard put-in hours and nothing comes of it. Due to a lack of work…I don’t think this project will continue.”

But Hotsenpiller said he thinks the regional district is getting close.

He expects the engineer’s report to come back within the next two to three weeks, and shortly after that the regional district plans to meet with the city.

Following those discussions, Hotsenpiller said there will be a public open house for affected residents.

“We’re operating on a ‘what’s next’ basis and I know there hasn’t been any new news for a long time going out to the community, but I think we’re getting really close to providing some more information to people.”