B.C.'s Community Minister Peter Fassbender

Updated: Impasse resolved in first round of Kelowna water dispute

The city and four irrigation districts have agreed to draft terms of reference for a review of a joint water plan.

Update: The Capital News has learned the reason why the impasse over the issue of governance in the terms of reference for a review of the joint water plan agreed to by Kelowna and the four other water purveyors that serve the city, is because the five have agreed to work out an entirely new integrated water plan. The guiding principles and terms of reference for that new 2016 water plan have yet to be worked out. More to come on kelownacapnews.com.

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Update: The province’s Community Ministry now says the meeting between its representatives, two mediators and representatives of Kelowna and the four irrigation districts that provide water to Kelowna residents took place Thursday, not Friday.

In its original release, dated Friday, June 10, Minister Peter Fassbender was quoted as saying the meeting took place “today.”

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Original story: The impasse between the City of Kelowna and the four irrigation districts that provide water to city residents over a review of a joint water plan for the area has been resolved.

B.C.’s community minister said Friday that during a meeting earlier in the day, the five members of the Kelowna Joint Water Board reached a “turning point” when they found common ground and agreed to draft common principles and terms of reference for a value planning process. The process was ordered by the province before it would approve the joint water plan.

While the city wants to see a single, interconnected water system for the entire city, the irrigation districts, which are independent bodies with their own taxation powers, have resisted.

In his release, Community Minister Peter Fassbender said all previous and existing materials and plans will be used to inform this process agreed to Friday.

The agreement was reached after work by two mediators appointed by the province, former health minister George Abbott and former provincial civil servant Chris Trumpy, got involved.

Fassbender said the agreement to move forward was made during what he described as a “very positive” meeting between representatives of the province, the City of Kelowna, the Black Mountain Irrigation District, the Rutland Water Works District, the Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District and the South East Kelowna Irrigation District, as well as Trumpy and Abbott.

Fassbender said the parties agreed to work proactively, for the benefit of all residents, as they take next steps to ensure a high quality of water across the region.

“There will be further details that require work between all parties, but we are clear about one thing—it is time to move forward,” he said.

There was no reference made to a single water system or the thorny issue of governance.

While the city has said governance is critical to moving forward, the water districts have called governance a technical issue, that has no place in the setting of terms of reference for a review of the already agreed to joint water plan.

When asked about that during the recent Southern Interior Local Government Association meeting in Kelowna, Fassbender agreed with the irrigation districts, saying he did not feel that technical issues like governance had to be addressed at this time.

On Friday, he publicly commended all of the parties for what he called their “leadership and commitment,” to move forward.