The Town of Gibsons is inviting other local governments to come to the table to “consider a modernized watershed management plan and a regional approach to watershed governance.”
The Town first unveiled this proposition at a private water information meeting for elected officials on March 12, before putting it on the public agenda for Gibsons committee of the whole on March 20. It includes a proposal for the Town to reduce its SCRD water use by 230,000 cubic metres per year by supplying Zone 3 (Upper Gibsons) with aquifer water. (Zone 3 is presently on SCRD water.)
Adding Zone 3 to the Town’s water system would require a new well, new pump station, and water main upgrades at an estimated cost of $2 million.
The Town and the SCRD recently came into conflict over SCRD plans to drill a test well on Mahan Road (in Area E) that would bore into the Gibsons aquifer. The SCRD is looking for potential sources of groundwater to supplement surface water from Chapman Creek, and has identified four promising test sites that are close to existing water lines.
At an infrastructure services committee meeting on March 15, SCRD directors debated staff’s recommendation to proceed with test drilling at all four sites. Speaking in support of the drilling, Area D Director Mark Lebbell noted that the Gibsons aquifer “sits about 50 per cent in the SCRD.” And Area F Director Ian Winn pointed to the cost efficiency of bringing in drill rigs to do four sites at once, adding: “They’re test wells, they’re not producing wells.”
But Gibsons Director Jeremy Valeriote argued that the Town already has a great deal of information on the Gibsons aquifer, including a monitoring well near the proposed Mahan Road test site. Moreover, any drilling into the aquifer carries a risk of damage.
“The Town has asked that we establish the groundwater management zone and adopt a management plan before we start investigative drilling,” said Valeriote. “Spending money to go poking holes that aren’t that useful may not be the best use of the ratepayers’ funds.”
In the end, directors voted to delay drilling of the Mahan Road well, but proceed with the other three sites: Gray Creek, Dusty Road and Soames.
The Gibsons strategy document characterizes the SCRD’s 2013 Regional Water Plan as “having limited success” at addressing the critical issue of water supply and points out that pressure on water will only increase due to climate change, regulatory changes and population growth.
As an initial step, the Town proposes setting up an advisory committee with representatives of all stakeholders, as well as a separate technical advisory committee comprised of “multiple third-party agencies and organizations.” The goal would be to establish a regional board or roundtable to manage water.