South Okanagan projects face no set timeline

Projects will connect Gallagher Lake residents to sewage treatment plant and pipe treated effluent to Vaseux Lake wetlands

Despite pronouncements that a pair of South Okanagan infrastructure projects will be ready “soon,” nothing is actually imminent.

“They’re not what’s considered exactly shovel-ready,” said Doug French, public works manager for the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

“It’ll be probably a couple years yet before either one of these gets to a good stage.”

Two press releases issued last Thursday confirmed funds for a project that will connect Gallagher Lake residents to a sewage treatment plant on nearby Osoyoos Indian Band land, and another project that will pipe treated effluent from the new Okanagan Falls Sewage Treatment Plant to the Vaseux Lake wetlands.

The press releases said both projects would “soon be underway.” Each is to receive $360,000 from the $4.2 million the RDOS was allotted from federal gas tax revenues in 2011. Directors decided in January how they wished to divvy up the money, and approval was granted in June by the body that oversees the program in B.C.

Gas tax money is administered in this province by the Union of B.C. Municipalities and all spending decisions are vetted by a committee that also includes representatives from senior levels of government.

UBCM spokesman Paul Taylor said the committee approved the RDOS projects in June and had hoped to announce the projects at an event over the summer, but was unable to set a date agreeable by representatives from all three levels of government and the UBCM.

“It was just a scheduling thing, we weren’t able to do it,” Taylor said. “So we thought rather than kind of hang onto the information, let’s put it out in a news release.”

At Gallagher Lake, 350 residents and one prospective distillery owner are anxiously awaiting their new hook-ups.

“We were hoping (work) would start in October,” said Grant Stevely, one of the principals behind the Dubh Glas Distillery.

“We remain hopeful that it will start before the new year,” he said, but “we’re exploring options to move ahead without that sewer.”

At Vaseux Lake, the treated wastewater from the new plant, a few hundred metres away, is scheduled to be piped under the Okanagan River channel and then pumped into the wetlands north of the lake. Water is already pumped there to maintain the area as a wetland.

French said the new plant is expected to go online in early 2013.

“Construction’s coming along well, they’re just starting to get the equipment in there,” he said.

However, an engineer still has to draw up plans for the discharge line to the wetlands, and “there will be some design work in the wetlands as well to make sure this water’s used effectively,” he said.

Ducks Unlimited is a listed as a partner on the project.

Bruce Harrison, the group’s head of conservation and planning for B.C., said via email that “we had initial talks about this proposed concept” with the RODS, but “we haven’t heard anything about it in months.”