West Bench director sold on water deal

West Bench residents will vote June 2 on whether the community should purchase its water from the City of Penticton

Residents on West Bench recognize that tapping into Penticton’s water supply is their best option, according to area director Michael Brydon.

A meeting was held on Tuesday for West Bench residents to outline the proposal that is before them and address any questions or concerns.

“It is still a very complicated deal and a lot of moving pieces and a lot of unanswered questions, but overall I think West Bench residents realize this is as good as they are going to get in terms of cost and certainly a high-quality solution. The Penticton system is professionally run and tested and well-established,” said Brydon, Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen director for Area F. “I think the West Bench people can’t do any better basically.”

In March, the City of Penticton approved the proposal to sell treated water in bulk to West Bench. A one-time buy-in payment from the RDOS will make up costs that will see the city selling water at the rate of 22 cents per cubic metre for the next 25 years.

“There is a huge up-front payment, which is basically $10,000 a door as a development cost charge. It’s a complicated deal and there is some complicated math and people are getting lost, but part of the presentation was trying to ensure people that, no, Penticton is not getting ripped off on this. It is actually a good deal for Penticton,” said Brydon.

Buying water from the city will solve the water quality problem the RDOS inherited when it took over the West Bench Irrigation District last summer. Brydon said there is a lot of external grant money from both the federal and provincial governments on the table to make sure the water situation is solved to the province’s satisfaction.

“Why on earth wouldn’t we go with this Penticton deal now that all the pieces have fallen into place. This is an easy one. The RDOS is certainly in favour of this deal with Penticton,” said Brydon.

Still, the decision will lie with West Bench residents. A referendum has been scheduled for June 2, and Brydon said he expects mail-in ballots should be allowed to be cast, although that decision will be up to the province.

In 2010, West Bench residents voted against receiving filtered water from Penticton because of the cost and began investigations into building their own treatment plant.