Nanaimo explores water supply options

Nanaimo city council is jumping feet first into exploring how to meet water demands for a growing population.

Nanaimo city council is jumping feet first into exploring how to meet water demands for a growing population.

A city staff report indicates the current water supply through the Jump Creek reservoir and South Fork Dam will be sufficient until about 2020, or when the local population reaches 100,000 people (it is currently estimated at about 90,000).

City hall is working on a solution now by issuing a request for qualifications for preliminary engineering work on a second dam referred to as South Fork 2, due to the magnitude and potential cost of the project, which is estimated to be in the $70 million range if the option is pursued.

Council already allocated $425,000 in the 2011 capital budget for the preliminary work.

“This type of project has a very long gestation period and this starts us on that road,” said Al Kenning, city manager.

It is estimated the development of additional water storage is a 10- to 12-year project.

Coun. Bill Holdom said other options are being considered by council because of the high cost of a dam, including tapping into the Cassidy aquifer and other surface sources.

“We will be continuing to look at other options because I think [a dam] is the highest cost option,” said Holdom. “But we have to start somewhere and I would just say the motion is simply to direct staff to issue a request for qualifications for preliminary engineering work. We’re simply covering a base.”

The discussion comes as the city is preparing to build a $65-million water treatment facility, $22.5 million of which would need to be borrowed or raised through an increase in user rates, as well as a multi-million dollar project for an emergency water supply that could see Harmac mill’s water pumped to the city in an emergency situation.

Kenning said if a second dam is ultimately approved as the solution, funding would come from water user ratess, borrowing, grant applications and development cost charges.

“Development cost charges would be a big piece of this one because this is definitely a growth-related project,” said Kenning, adding that DCCs currently include a levy to help pay for water infrastructure.

He added, however, that a previous council decided to encourage development by reducing the levy on developers for water infrastructure expansion.

“One of the decisions that council made which impacts the level of DCCs is that it decided to apply an assist factor to assist the development community … council made a decision to lower the water DCC,” said Kenning. “The development cost charges could be higher to help fund the water supply, but council was unwilling to raise them to a level that would be needed to pay for the full cost of the project.”

Kenning said that in staff’s view, expanding the water supply will be necessary to accommodate future demand.

The city’s current water supply comes from the 230-square-kilometre South Nanaimo River watershed.

The existing South Fork Dam was built in 1930 and is kept full to ensure that supply pressure is maintained. Eight kilometers from that dam is the Jump Creek Dam, built in 1975, which stores water in the Jump Creek reservoir. Water is stored during the wet season then released to keep the South Fork Dam reservoir full.

Over the past few years, conservation efforts by the city, such as watering restrictions and toilet rebate programs, have helped keep per-capita consumption somewhat lower, but demand continues to grow.

A city report states that a study determined groundwater quantities were not sufficient to support the city’s future needs.

Mayor John Ruttan said council will continue to explore options.

“I don’t want to leave people with the assumption that South Fork Dam II is definitely going to be built and that $60 or $70 million may not at this time be something we are deciding on,” said Ruttan. “There may be other ways of solving the problem without spending $70 million.”

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com

Just Posted

Potters Virginia Dunseith and Ruth Porter present their joint exhibit ‘Dig It’ at Art 10 Gallery until the end of June. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Potters show pieces for home and garden at Nanaimo’s Art 10 Gallery

Virginia Dunseith and Ruth Porter’s show ‘Dig It’ on display until end of June

Construction work continues on the City of Nanaimo’s new Fire Station No. 1 on Fitzwilliam Street. (News Bulletin file)
Next phase of borrowing approved as Nanaimo fire hall construction ongoing

City of Nanaimo CAO says construction on Fitzwilliam Street hall on schedule and budget

Nanaimo Fire Rescue firefighters at the scene of a single-vehicle crash on Tenth Street near Southside Drive on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Driver OK after crashing vehicle off the side of Nanaimo’s Tenth Street

Crews say wet roads a factor a crash Sunday, June 13

Emergency crews on scene of a two-car crash at the intersection of Cranberry Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Crash blocks Cranberry intersection in Nanaimo, no one injured

Incident blocks both southbound lanes of Trans-Canada Highway

Emergency crews on scene of a two-car crash at the intersection of Cranberry Avenue and the Trans-Canada Highway on Sunday, June 13. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Crash blocks Cranberry intersection in Nanaimo, no one injured

Incident blocks both southbound lanes of Trans-Canada Highway

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ restart plan

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Most Read