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 That plan is strikingly similar to the existing Oak Bay plan, for which the bylaw has not been rescinded.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 johnsonstreetbridge.org 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.

In Quotes: Tonight’s council on Oak Bay Lodge and Uplands sewage

As will undoubtedly be reported tomorrow in the TC, Oak Bay Council elected to delay the Uplands sewage project, mostly by simply deciding to not do anything. This almost certainly means that that the grant from the federal and prov. governments is gone, as is a low-pressure system. What it means beyond that isn’t certain. As I mentioned earlier in the day, also up was a presentation by VIHA on Oak Bay Lodge as well as a few other things. I will do some more reporting on them tomorrow, but tonight I thought I would share with you a few of the choicer quotes from the evening:

Building a new facility [to replace Oak Bay Lodge] is the best use of resources

VIHA CEO Howard Waldner, on whether or not replacement is a better option to refurbishment

It is a matter for the new owner and [Oak Bay] council

CEO Waldner, essentially dodging VIHA’s responsibility in determining the best use of the Oak Bay Lodge lands

We have no knowledge of that

Waldner on the reported hard-ball tactics that property owners adjoining Oak Bay Lodge have been receiving

We [Oak Bay Council] have also received an imperative from Uplands residents: no pumps

Councillor Cassidy on the provincial/federal imperative to separate the Uplands sewage system

We [Oak Bay Council] should have said no

Councillor Herbert on what they should have told the province when the deadline was moved back to 2011

Whether we like it or not, it has to be done

Councillor Jensen on the inevitability of sewage separation

We [Oak Bay Council] haven’t heard from the rest of the community

Councillor Ney on consulting the wider Oak Bay community on the Uplands sewage project

It was easier to ask tough questions about Oak Bay Lodge

Councillor Copley at the start of her remarks on sewage treatment. Copley has a parent in Oak Bay Lodge

I would have liked to have a more made-in-Canada solution

Copley on the usage of American-made pumps in the proposed low-pressure system

Gas lights were once the gold standard

Councillor Braithwaite on the “best” sewage system for the Uplands

If there is any fault in communication, it always comes back to the mayor

Mayor Causton’s mea culpa on the public consultation side of the Uplands sewage treatment project

I don’t want any of the comments by council to reflect badly on the staff

Causton praising staff and consultants on their work on the sewage issue, after council essentially voted to defer the issue by merely receiving the report recommending a low-pressure system without further action

Sewage, Oak Bay Lodge and more at tonight’s council

Tonight’s council agenda (PDF) is very full and with the dual contentious issues of Uplands sewage and Oak Bay Lodge, it should be interesting. First up is VIHA with a presentation on what happens with Oak Bay Lodge, which is likely to be followed by some interesting debate amongst council members, who haven’t yet stated any formal positions on the matter.

This is also the night for deciding on Uplands sewage, after last Wednesday’s marathon until almost midnight. Councillor Cassidy has already stated his position on supported a gravity feed system over a low-pressure one, but none of the other councillors or the mayor have been that explicit. The choice is a tough one, because the gravity system likely requires a tax increase, ballparked in the neighbourhood of 10% per household for the entire of Oak Bay but the low-pressure system is nearly universally opposed by Uplands residents and requires ongoing maintenance.

Also up on the agenda are the transportation priorities committee, which Councillor Jensen has proposed, the usual host of property bylaw variances, a request from the Oak Bay Lawn Bowling Club for financial assisstance (something not likely to meet favour with Councillor Braithwaite, who feels Oak Bay gives enough to the club already, given it’s membership), and the potential of hiring a consultant to work with the school district on the Oak Bay High replacement project.

I suspect that it might just be a little busy tonight, so if you want to come, make certain you arrive early to get your seat.

Uplands and their sewage, again

The Uplands sewage plan again drew a packed room last night, this time in the much Garry Oak Room of Monterey Centre. As the Times Colonist reports, scores of speakers, largely from the Uplands, were solidly opposed to the plan. Although the minutes of this meeting won’t be ready for some time, if you want to get an idea, much of it was also said at the Dec. 14th meeting, which does have minutes online (PDF). In the end, council opted to defer a decision, but not before Coun. Cassidy registered his opinion that gravity treatment was the way to go. The full vote is expected at the next council meeting, to be held on Monday, Jan 11th at 7:30pm at Municipal Hall.

Happenings this week

Lots of interesting things happening this week, including UVic (and thus me) heading into the spring term on Monday. Other events include:

Funeral procession for Lt. Nutall, from McCall Brothers to Christ Church Cathedral. Starts between 11:45 and12:15. Further details in TC story.

Special Oak Bay Council session on the Uplands Sewer Project. Full Agenda here (PDF). 6:30pm in the Garry Oak Room in Monterey Centre (by the library)

All Week:
IIHF Hockey Championship in Saskatchewan. Full Schedule.

Provincial and Federal governments hand out loot

It is the season for giving, being a recession with Keynes back in and Friedman out, so today the two senior levels of government did just that. Or at least, so says their rather triumphant press release. Sadly (or not, depending on your point of view) there is no money for a new Johnson Street Bridge, but plenty of other things did get money:

  • Our fine municipality got money for the Uplands sewer upgrade. The joint storm/sewage sewers are the main reason behind our eye-popping $700/yr property increase for the new sewage treatment, so this money, an even matching grant between the municipality, the feds and the provinces, will help all of Oak Bay taxpayers.
  • The Kinsol Trestle rehabilitation in the Cowichan Valley got almost $6 million to complete this link of the Trans-Canada Trail.
  • Despite the government cutting library operating funds, two libraries in Surrey and Saltspring Island got funding for new buildings.
  • The only even remotely transit related project is a Highway 7 Bus Lane in Pitt Meadows. Guess we aren’t going to meet our climate goals after all.
  • Sidney got some money for a Lochside Waterfront Trail, likely the project mentioned on this website and in these 2006 council minutes (PDF).

All in all, the majority of the funding seems to be for sewers and highways, with a scattering of arts centres, libraries and other bits and pieces.