One All Candidates done, one to come

Well, one all candidates is done. Speaking last was the distinct advantage of getting to listen to everybody else, but you do get to stew in your own nervousness for over 20 minutes while everybody else talks. Jason Ross of was there again with his video cameras, which was excellent, so those you following at home can see. I tried collect all the questions I could while they came up, and I think I managed to get most of them:

  • Child care – How are you going to provide more spots?
  • Secondary suites
  • Traffic on the avenue – How are you going to deal with heavy traffic on the avenue and surrounding residential streets
  • Young families – How do you attract more to Oak Bay
  • Affordable housing – How to you provide more
  • Town hall meetings – Why haven’t we had more?
  • Oak bay lodge
  • Smart meters, and health
  • Deer issue – What is Oak Bay and the CRD doing about it?
  • Community engagement young families – How do you engage young families in the community
  • CRD accountability
  • Sewage infrastructure
  • P3’s water/sewage – Do you support keeping water and sewage infrastructure and operation public
  • Composting -When is it coming to the rest of Oak Bay?

Thanks to everybody that came out. If you missed it, we have another opportunity next Tuesday, November 7th, 7-9pm, at Emmanuel Baptist Church. Thanks to the North Henderson Residents Association and the Community Association of Oak Bay for hosting these.

Questionnaire: Georgia Strait Alliance and T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation ask about sewage

Georgia Strait Alliance and the T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation are conducting a survey of municipal candidates in the Capital Regional District’s (CRD) 7 core areas to clarify each candidate’s stance on Victoria’s plan for sewage treatment. How candidates answer this question will be publicized in advance of the municipal elections with local media, shared with community organizations and made available on the Georgia Strait Alliance website (, as well as the websites of all three organizations involved. Please also find attached some information on the sewage treatment issue in the Capital Regional District.

Question: As a councillor I will support and work positively to ensure a comprehensive secondary or better sewage treatment system for the CRD core area is built before 2020, and that costs are share between local, provincial and federal governments?

Please check one:

Agree ________

Disagree _______


I support the better option, because one already exists: source control with oceanic sewage treatment. I strongly believe that land-based sewage treatment is environmentally irresponsible, and fiscally reckless. We need to work with institutions, commercial properties, and industries on better source control, as they are a major source of pollutants.

However, I am strongly in favour of doing some level of treatment (plus additions of rain gardens) for the storm water, something that many  scientists are now saying is a greater threat to the ocean than sewage.

I will also say this: If sewage treatment is required of us by senior levels of government, then any such treatment plants should be kept in public hands and run by public organizations, not private companies.

All You Need to Know About Stormwater Runoff

Bike lane with bioswale on Shelbourne
Bike lane with bioswale on Shelbourne

Courtesy of Sightline Daily, which is from the similarly-named Sightline Institute out of Seattle, everything you need to know about stormwater:

An overflow of 15 million gallons of sewage and stormwater fouls the shoreline of picturesque Port Angeles, putting the waterfront off limits to the residents and visitors of the Olympic Peninsula town due to health concerns.

Portlanders are socked with some of the nation’s highest water utility rates in order to pay for the city’s $1.4 billion “Big Pipe” projects.

Northwest scientists document coho salmon dying in urban streams with their bellies full of eggs, perishing before they can spawn.

The culprit in each of these stories is the most mundane of villains: the rain. As rainwater streams off roofs and over roadways and landscaped yards, it mixes a massive toxic cocktail. It scoops up oil, grease, antifreeze, and heavy metals from cars; pesticides that poison aquatic insects and fish; fertilizers that stoke algal blooms; and bacteria from pet and farm-animal waste. A heavy rainfall delivers this potent shot of pollutants straight into streams, lakes, and bays—threatening everything from tiny herring to the region’s beloved orcas to our families’ health.

Given we are still stalled on the Uplands sewage separation, let alone any sort of treatment of our stormwater, I think fixing this problem is a long time coming. That being said, the CRD has been pretty successful with their source control projects and have some good information about bioswales, both designed to prevent all those pollutants mentioned above from getting into the storm drains in the first place.

FCM Sustainable Communites wrap-up

The FCM’s 2011 Sustainable Communities Conference is over and all the delegates have gone home. I thought I would post a few more thoughts about the conference:

  • I had a great “corridor conference” with a number of people, including Nicole Tomes, from the City of Cochrane, AB. I met her at Gaining Ground 2010 (a conference which got volunteering right – see below), so it was great to run into her again. She is doing great things with the Cochrane Sustainability Plan, a well-written and well-designed piece of work.
  • I went to the session on the Green Municipal Fund and I was pleased to see that the FCM is now taking implementation seriously. They have a push to actually fund projects with shovels and all that, not just creating additional places for dust to collect.
  • It was amusing to hear discussions of how to fund sewage via a user-pay method. It had never occurred to me that this wasn’t the norm now. (For context, Oak Bay just changed so that 80% of the sewage bill is per-unit and 20% a fixed cost per household)
  • The recent push by the big disease-specific charities to target the causes of their specific illness was out in evidence here: Heart & Stroke Foundation has a big campaign about changing community design to keep kids and communities healthy. Their session on Thursday was packed and filled with great info. (This ties in well with the recent push by the Canadian Cancer Society to advocate for cosmetic pesticide bans.)

And now the bad: volunteer management. I have volunteered for a lot conferences, festivals, and organizations. While I was working for Luminara, my production coordinator duties meant helping manage volunteers. So it is with this knowledge that I say that this amongst the least-well organized conference for volunteers that I have seen.

An example: When we arrived, we were told we weren’t going to get into the conference for free, the usual reward for providing free work. They later relented and “offered” us one free day, “a value of $300”. Apparently they had no experience with actual volunteers. FCM thought we were municipal staff who were getting paid to be there. Sorry, but no. All I can say is that I truly hope that this wasn’t anybody’s first conference they had volunteered at. One bad experience could put them off for life. Overall, I got the impression that FCM had very little experience dealing with volunteers.

Still, even with the issues with the volunteer management,  this was a great conference. It was a great mix of people from the public and private sector. And the energy was great.

OakBay coucil doesn’t reject sewage mitigation

Despite what Oak Bay News reported, Oak Bay Council did not reject mitigation of the proposed sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt, rather they rejected the “community benefits agreement” which would have built things like bike lanes. What they didn’t reject was mitigation, much like what they did at the Currie Road pump station near Windsor Park wherein they hid it as a residential house. Mildly ironic that it is a picture of that very pump station that Oak Bay News used to illustrate their article.

UVic seeks input on Cedar Hill X Rd lands

A former potential site of sewage treatment, now under study. Image courtesy CRD Natural Areas Atlas

UVic Sustainability has finally decided to develop a plan for the Cedar Hill X Rd. lands. Yes, those same lands that the CRD considered for a Saanich East/Oak Bay sewage treatment/pumping plant earlier this year. (For reference, it is outlined in yellow to the right). Like most areas, there are a lot of interested parties, including dog walkers, UVic Facilities, UVic Forest Biology, and the local community. Some of those users don’t see eye to eye, so balancing those conflicted needs should be interesting.

This isn’t the first time a plan has come up for the site, although it seems that everybody but UVic has been involved. Proposed for the site in 2009 was a “UVic School of Agriculture” by the Campus Urban Agricultural Collective (Facebook page). At the time the draft plan under discussion was but an apple in the eye of then-UVic (now CRD) Sustainability Coordinator Sarah Webb, as she mentioned the Marlet in a story about the CUAC. Earlier this year the Food Not Lawns Collective co-opted that idea and dumped it into their manifesto (as they dug up the lawn in front of the library, possibly killing all their credibility in the process).

Disappointingly, the plan doesn’t talk at all about the road immediately adjacent, which includes parking in the area, or of better pedestrian access. Currently Cedar Hill X Rd. has a number of problems: too wide, lack of sidewalks on the north side, lack of bike lanes, and its use as overflow parking from UVic, the Rec Centre, both golf courses, and Emmanuel Baptist Church. Yes, the road is under the control of Oak Bay, but that shouldn’t stop UVic from making a stronger statement. And Oak Bay should listen. After all, they are the adjacent land owner and we go to great pains to query other adjacent land owners when we put in improvements like bike lanes. Observe the recent bike lane work on the other side of Cedar Hill X Rd.

However, I am cautiously optimistic. The drop dead date for getting your comments into UVic is November 26th. You can read more at the UVic Sustainability Planning site.

Uplands sewage to get more study

In the latest round of this saga, Council had received a note from Bill Cochrane, the Chief Administrative Officer of Oak Bay, rehashing history and offering a few new points. They eventually opted to follow Cochrane’s recommendation that Oak Bay Engineering prepare a literature review of all the various plans in the past decade, to be presented to council at a further date. That review will likely include provincially-rejected plans like a storage as getting the provincial Environment Ministry to review options prior isn’t likely, in the words of Cochrane.

Where this leaves the potential $5 million funding is unclear. So it seems are provincial officials as to exactly what Oak Bay is doing, something Mayor Causton reported after he spoke with both the deputy minister of the Environment and the Community Services ministries. With the funding unclear, so is the potential tax burden on the whole municipality. One interesting fact that came to light tonight was that the oft-quoted figure of the Uplands being 30% of Oak Bay’s tax base is likely incorrect. Cochrane did some estimation and calculated it to be around 12%, assuming the average property is assessed at about $1.7 million.

In further joyful news about money, the costs keep rising with regards to a gravity system. Kerr Wood Leidel, the engineering firm contracted to investigate the various options, looked at a deep sanitary sewer more closely and figured that the cost is likely to be 10-25% higher than the $18.5 million previously quoted. Given any new pipe would be running beside the existing joined sewer, it would be longterm cost effective to replace that pipe as well. Although the pipe is in good shape, it is jointed and thus is susceptible to water leakage or INI (see my glossary on sewage terms). This would add about $6 million to the cost, bringing the public cost to about $29 million. That does not include the estimated $7 million+ that private owners still need to foot for their connections.

Councillor Herbert also raised an interesting point tonight after he had looked into the City of Vancouver’s provincially-approved plan for sewage separation. That plan is strikingly similar to the existing Oak Bay plan, for which the bylaw has not been rescinded. Both call for a 2050 ending date, with Vancouver planning 1% being done each year while Oak Bay used the more arbitrary $200,000/year. Full details of the City of Vancouver’s plan can be seen on their Sewer page or Metro Vancouver’s Liquid Waste Management Plan (PDF, page 3).

So we are no closer to getting a solution tonight than we are before the meeting. However, one thing that Mayor Causton asked to be added to the options review is a financial review of the cost of the CRD-mandated 1% replacement of existing separated sewers to prevent INI in those pipes. Maybe once we have that document, we will see just how big of a whole we are in and by that time, it should be clear if the federal or provincial governments want to help dig us out of it or not.

Oak Bay Council debates Uplands sewage again tomorrow night

The latest round of debate about the Uplands Sewage Separation project will happen during tomorrow night’s council meeting (PDF). This is the last meeting that Council can decide to move forward with the low-pressure system to respond to the federal and provincial funding deadline of Jan. 29th. The directors of the Oak Bay Community Association have also released a statement asking council to consider the financial impacts on the entire municipality when making a decision. Expect a packed room, so arrive before the 7:30pm start time.

Also up for tomorrow night is the public hearing and last reading (PDF) of the proposed greenhouse gas reduction amendment to the Official Community Plan (PDF). It is not available online, but you can view it at the Oak Bay Municipal Hall tomorrow until 4:30pm. As of Friday there were only a few written submissions, but some people may speak to the issue at the meeting itself. I have previously expressed disgust at the lack of binding targets, but that is a debate for another day.

Further thoughts from the Uplands sewage meeting

As I (and others) have reported, Oak Bay Council ultimately rejected the low-pressure gravity system, but unlike the Oak Bay News and Times Colonist inferred, many of the councillors didn’t so much reject the low-pressure system as defer the question until further consultation with the residents, both in and out of the Uplands, could be done.

Specifically Councillors Braithwaite, Copley and Ney never mentioned what system they preferred, with Ney saying they need to “lead by following” and Braithwaite having the lovely quote about gas lights being the gold standard once, which she followed with “to me the question is not if we abandon gravity systems but when.” She even noted that when electric lights came in, people protested the removal of the gas lights, despite the electric system being a clear improvement.

So where does that leave Oak Bay? On the books is still the approved plan for a 50-year phased roll-out of a new storm sewer (page 3 of this backgrounder – PDF). Beyond that, the giant unknown right now is the fate of the federal and provincial governments funding for the low-pressure system. Residents of Oak Bay need to keep asking council some hard questions about how the coming Uplands system is going to be funded and what sort of system it is going to be. As for whether or not we will get a referendum, as Councillor Jensen suggested in the a Times Colonist story, I suspect that depends on if we get a few champions of such a vote, much as the City of Victoria had with the people.


There are a lot of confusing terms associated with the Uplands sewage separation project, but two of the most common acronyms that were tossed around were MSR and INI. In the hopes of lifting some of that confusion, a quick debrief:

INI or Inflow and infiltration. Essentially the water that leaks into the system from the cracks in the pipes, bad joints, manhole covers, etc. CRD has a good page on INI.

MSR or Municipal Sewage Regulation: The provincial law that governs sewage systems, both sanitary and storm. This is the law that is forcing Oak Bay to twin the Uplands sewer. The full regulations and FAQ are available online.