Water was the only item on the agenda at a special meeting of Sechelt’s planning and community development committee on Nov. 22. A standing-room-only crowd packed the council chamber and more people watched from home via YouTube as Sechelt councillors questioned Sunshine Coast Regional District staff about the Coast’s water supply, and why the SCRD isn’t doing more to increase it.
The meeting started with a presentation by SCRD staff Shane Walkey (manager of utility services) and Raphael Shay (water & energy projects coordinator), summarizing the SCRD’s 25-year Comprehensive Regional Water Plan, adopted in 2013.
The SCRD’s water service area stretches from Secret Cove to Langdale and provides water to more than 10,000 connections, almost half of which are in the District of Sechelt. Although the plan states that the water supply is inadequate, its immediate focus is demand management, with the goal of reducing average demand per capita by 20 per cent.
Shay noted that the SCRD’s water meter program, rolled out in the rural areas in 2017, has found over a thousand leaks on private property. Repairs to date have saved over 2 million litres per day of water. (Daily water usage in winter is about 10 million litres, rising to 20-22 million litres in summer.)
Councillor Doug Wright was not impressed, stating: “I think your plan is out to lunch.”
Mayor Bruce Milne concurred, noting that while he supports water metering, “we clearly don’t have enough supply.” He also dismissed the viability of the Chapman Lake water expansion project. The SCRD has asked permission from the province to dig a deeper channel at the Chapman Lake dam so they can draw down another five metres of water, but Milne doesn’t think they’ll get approval from an NDP government that is dependent on Green Party support.
“My call on getting an act of legislation that redraws the boundaries of any class A park in the province is a lot less than 50 per cent. It’s probably a snowflake’s chance in hell,” said Milne. “We have to look at plan B, which looks like the engineered lake.”
Milne also questioned the per capita consumption targets, suggesting that they were based on urban usage, and did not take into account the water needs of suburban and rural areas.
Sechelt councillors were particularly concerned that the SCRD’s plan does not take into account the very large number of new developments being planned in Sechelt. Noel Muller asked directly whether there is adequate water for all the 2,000 parcels that are ‘in the queue’.
In response, SCRD CAO Janette Loveys admitted that the SCRD did not have an understanding of Sechelt’s plans, and said that those new developments would also have an impact on regional garbage and recycling services.
However, Mayor Milne pointed out that every Sechelt development plan is referred to the SCRD, and Councillor Wright stated he had informed the board and administration of Sechelt’s development plans when he sat at the SCRD board table earlier this year.
Although the committee did not vote on any recommendations, they did send a clear message that Sechelt wants to see action on increasing the regional water supply.
Committee Chair, Noel Muller, said: “What we’re hearing from our community is that they’re looking for a bold capital plan to deal with the issues around water scarcity.” Donna McMahon