After years of work and $11.1 million in provincial funding, the Castle Area Regional Water Supply Project is now complete.
Celebration of the news, however, was restrained during the Jan. 26 meeting of MD of Pincher Creek council.
“It’s difficult to be going and celebrating,” said Coun. Bev Everts, “particularly as a Division 3 councillor, when the project was specifically supposed to be providing water to Beaver Mines.”
Providing water to Castle Mountain Resort and the surrounding provincial park was initially planned as an addition to servicing MD residents through the Beaver Mines Regional Water Supply Project.
However, work on the Beaver Mines project has been mired in provincial regulatory procedures since September, resulting in holiday homes receiving running water before taxpaying residents.
“There’s businesses paying huge monthly fees in Beaver Mines, there’s people that are trucking water, there’s people that don’t have proper waste solutions that are having to have their septic systems pumped out — it goes on and on,” Coun. Everts said.
“So I find it hard to celebrate.”
The project is awaiting approval from Alberta Environment and Parks, which is currently reviewing four submitted statements of concern from residents regarding the proposed placement of the wastewater treatment plant.
Despite the MD addressing the concerns in its plans, approval is still required from the AEP director. Should the treatment system be approved, an appeal by those in opposition could delay things further, though with the costs of legal fees, an appeal is unlikely, said director of public works Aaron Benson.
In the meantime, engineering and design plans, along with tender documents, will be completed by mid March. The expectation is that construction could begin by May at the earliest, subject to AEP approval. Tendering for the project will occur once approval is given.
Constructing the lift station, lift station forced main and water inflection system is expected to take eight months. Two months of service work and cleanup will also need to be completed at the end of construction.
“So we’re going to be looking at, unfortunately, 2022 to do some of this work as well. It will not get all done in 2021,” said Mr. Benson.
Construction timelines are, of course, subject to fickle Alberta weather. Should the Beaver Mines water project be delayed substantially, it could put at risk funding sources that dictate the project must be completed by the end of 2022.
The irony of the delay is that Beaver Mines residents are deprived of convenient access to water because of submitted concerns of Beaver Mines residents. Adding to local frustration is the delay in approval by the provincial government.
“This original project was a direct result of the government saying that the services weren’t OK in the first place, and now they’re holding up the whole process,” said Coun. Everts.
“It’s astronomical the dollars that people are having to spend because the water is going to Castle and not to Beaver. It’s not acceptable. Is the government aware of that? Do they know that?”
Reaching out to Livingstone-Macleod MLA Roger Reid and other provincial officials, said Reeve Brian Hammond, had helped solve delays with the Castle project and potentially could help expedite the process.
“We fiddled around with that other project for a long time too, it seems to me, and then finally decided to take the bull by the horns and drag it around and it seemed to have worked well,” he said.
“Time is of the essence, and everyone who’s involved with this project needs to be aware of that. As the municipal authority with the primary responsibility, we have some very grave concerns and need this approval process to be moved along,” the reeve added.
Coun. Rick Lemire agreed that lobbying the province for approval was needed but stressed an immediate plan was needed to ease the burden of residents.
“If we’re going to be too delayed, we owe it to the residents out there,” Coun. Lemire said. “Maybe we should look at the standpipe, at least lessen their burden a little bit so they don’t have to go to town to haul water — even a temporary solution to show that we’re moving forward and that we understand the pain they’re going through and we’re here to help them with that a little bit.”
Council agreed to discuss options for the standpipe during closed session at the Feb. 9 meeting.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze