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Oliver gets upgrade to water system

Gas tax revenue will help pump up a key piece of an upgraded water system in Oliver.

The town announced Wednesday it has secured $407,000 through the federal gas tax program to drill a new well that will replace others that were taken out of service due to high levels of uranium.

A crossing will have to be drilled under the Okanagan River to connect users to the new well near Buchanan Road. Total cost of the project is estimated at $936,000.

“You’re talking about drilling the new well and all the infrastructure that goes with it,” noted Oliver Mayor Ron Hovanes.

He expects the town will have to borrow about half of its $529,000 share of the cost.

Hovanes said the new water source will “compliment” the rest of the system, which provides domestic and irrigation supplies to properties from McIntyre Bluff to the northern tip of Osoyoos Lake.

The mayor said the wells that have been taken offline fell prey to ever-tightening standards set by Health Canada. Work on the new well is expected to begin in early 2013.

Each year, the federal government hands back $2 billion in gas tax revenues — about half of what it takes in — to Canadian municipalities that must use the money to address infrastructure needs.

B.C.’s annual cut is about $250 million, and the cash is administered by the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

“For us to get a share of that pocket of money, we’re very fortunate,” Hovanes said.

“These projects cannot be handled by the taxpayers themselves.”

Oliver is still seeking grant money to fund the third and final phase of an upgrade to its water distribution system. The last part of that plan calls for twinning the system for 55 homes north of town.

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