A tied vote at the SCRD board on March 8 spelled defeat for a motion to abandon the Chapman Lake expansion project, introduced by Board Chair and Sechelt Mayor Bruce Milne.
Milne stated that he would prefer to see the regional district concentrate its efforts on finding additional water supplies and building a new storage reservoir rather than “draining Chapman Lake.” He also expressed difficulty understanding why directors would support a $5 million water project that was intended for use only during Stage 4 drought.
“I’m very concerned that we’re not being honest with ourselves about what we really want the Chapman Lake expansion project for. I think people are committed to it because they want it as an expansion of supply and not as drought management,” said Milne.
Sechelt Indian Government District (SIGD) director Keith Julius, although he did not have a vote on the water issue, said he supported the project because it is important to plan for future population growth. “I support going forward with what’s in place now as everybody’s done so much work,” said Julius.
Area A Director Frank Mauro argued that the project is critical as an emergency water supply and is a good value for the cost. “This is well over a million cubic metres of storage for some four and a half million dollars.”
“When it comes to critical services like the supply of water, it’s definitely required that you overbuild,” said Mauro. “You have to be able supply water under all conditions to the residents that you’re serving.”
Area E Director Lorne Lewis reiterated his longstanding opposition to the project, saying: “This is designed just to treat this lake like a tank and drain it as the population grows.”
Only areas that participate in the water service were able to vote, using a weighted vote based on population. The motion received eight votes in favour (two from Area E and six from the District of Sechelt) and eight against (two votes each from Areas A, B, D, and F). The Town of Gibsons and the Sechelt Indian Government District do not participate in the SCRD’s water function and therefore did not vote.
In bringing his motion to the board, Milne stated that he wanted to have “public clarity” on who was “driving this particular issue.” He contended that the project had critical support from rural areas that receive little or no water from Chapman Lake and directors who would not be running for re-election this fall.
The District of Sechelt is the largest user of Chapman Lake water, with almost 50 per cent of the service connections. Area A does not receive water from Chapman Lake, and most Area F residents are on well systems. Both Area D Director Mark Lebbell and Area B Director Garry Nohr have publicly stated they won’t run again, although Nohr later said that he is reconsidering.
Also during the March 8 board meeting, SCRD Chief Administrative Officer Janette Loveys reported on discussions with senior staff from the Ministry of the Environment. Loveys said that Ministry staff have committed to “initiating the public consultation process which will include timelines for the approvals of the [Tetrahedron] park management plan adjustments.”