West Bench explores water options

Residents of West Bench are looking for support from the regional district to help solve their water problems.

Residents of West Bench are looking for support from the regional district to help solve their water problems.

In a December referendum residents voted down a project that would have resulted in the City of Penticton providing filtered water to the West Bench Irrigation District. Since then the group has been searching for other options on treating water.

A letter from the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development sent to the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen explains that they are interested in assisting the WBID in finding a solution, but any water quality improvement project will likely be beyond the financial resources of the landowners because improvement districts are not eligible for water infrastructure grant funding.

At Thursday’s regional district meeting the board supported the recommendation to authorize administration to work with the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to assist the WBID in resolving their water quality problems and that administration be instructed to report back to the board with the preferred alternative.

The ministry has suggested the RDOS is eligible for the infrastructure grant funding and wants to explore the prospect of having the RDOS undertake a water treatment project for the WBID.

“The scope of the project will depend upon direction from the Interior Health Authority. If the water must be filtered, the option for obtaining water from the city could be revisited. However, it is unlikely that this option would be supported by the electors so soon after the vote in December,” said Mike Furey, assistant deputy minister, in the letter to the RDOS.

Furey added once a workable treatment option is identified, funding could be obtained through existing grants. The regional district board would need to pass a service area establishment bylaw and a loan authorization bylaw to finance a portion of the project that is not financed by grants.  In addition, the ministry will need to request a cabinet order that dissolves the WBID and transfers its assets and liabilities to the RDOS.

Furey said there is a very limited timeframe until March 31, 2012 that the water treatment project must be undertaken and completed in order for the RDOS to receive grant funding under the British Columbia Community Water Improvement Program.