Sewage model will be largely public project as 'middle ground' is taken

By Kim Westad
Times Colonist
March 24, 2010 3:02 Pm

The region’s sewage committee voted today for “middle ground” model to design, finance, build and operate the area’s largest infrastructure project.

The almost $1-billion project will be procured largely as a public project, but the West Shore and a resource recovery centre have the option of being run under a public-private-partnership, depending on what is least expensive.

The recommendation must go to the CRD board for final approval. Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins, View Royal Mayor Graham Hill, Saanich councillor Vic Derman and Victoria councillor Philippe Lucas voted against the motion.

About 100 people packed the meeting, where the committee debated about four hours before making the decision. Many politicians on the board said that the motion isn’t perfect but it is a compromise that moves the project along so that the CRD can apply for provincial-federal funding grants.

The provincial government has mandated that the region provide secondary sewage treatment by 2016. Currently, local sewage goes through a six mm screen before going into the ocean.

The project is estimated at about $961-million, to be split equally between the CRD, province and federal governments. The province requires any project that requires more than $50 million of provincial funding consider public-private-partnership.

An Ernst and Young business plan done for the CRD recommended that the region adopt a hybrid model to design, build, finance and operate the system. They suggested that the West Shore system and a portion of resource recovery from the wastewater be done privately, while the remainder of the system be done publicly.

Virtually all the people attending the meeting were against any form of private involvement. Many had placards or wore pins and T-shirts lobbying against any form of P3. “Poo poo on P3” was popular.

The CRD’s sewage plan currently calls for sewage treatment sites at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt and another in the Haro Woods area of Saanich, near Finnerty and Arbutus Roads. However, the region would like to move the McLoughlin Point site to the upper Inner Harbour. It is trying to buy land in the area, but that’s not been done yet.

As well, many Saanich residents are opposed to the Haro Woods site and want it moved.

The technology to be used also hasn’t been picked.

“You cannot proceed with public engagement until the exact site and technology are known, but that is what you plan to do,” Stuart Hertzog told the committee. “The business case is as full of holes as a Swiss cheese. It is hugely expensive, smells worse than Limburger cheese and offers no social, financial or environmental benefits to the taxpayer.”

The CRD would borrow its share of the money from the Municipal Finance Authority. Neither the province or federal governments have yet committed to the funding. The federal government will only fund its portion if the province does.

The province and federal governments would likely cap their funding component, the committee heard, so any cost overrrun would fall to the CRD.

The business case is on the CRD website,