Cultus Lake Sewer Project FAQ
Can’t we just stop construction and keep applying for grants? Why do we need to go to a referendum?
For now, construction has been paused. The FVRD continues to wait for news on its 2019 grant funding application and will be applying for the 2020 Investing in Canada Infrastructure (Green Infrastructure-Environmental Quality) program. The application deadline is February 2020 and FVRD staff and elected officials are actively working with federal and provincial ministries to secure their support for this grant funding. Decisions on the 2020 applications aren’t expected until the spring of 2021. This creates a very significant time delay to complete this project. It is important to remember that grant funding is not guaranteed. Waiting for the 2021 funding announcements will delay the project by at least 18 months and if no funding is received we could find ourselves in the same situation. The existing sewer system has already reached the end of its life. A delay of 18 months will continue to stress a deteriorated system. Construction costs have been increasing by 10 percent each year, so further delays will increase the overall costs of the project. The 2019 funding request was $1.9M. If the 2019 grant application is successful, FVRD is still eligible to apply for the 2020 intake.
How many grants has the FVRD applied for on the Cultus Lake Sewer Project?
The FVRD has applied for four grant funding opportunities.
- New Building Canada Fund (Small Communities Component) – FVRD applied for the complete project cost of $9.6M. This application was not successful.
- Clean Water and Wastewater Fund – In 2016, the project was scaled down and the FVRD applied for a grant funding opportunity for $6.5M. This application for the total scaled-down project was also unsuccessful.
- Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (Green Infrastructure – Environmental Quality) – In 2017, the FVRD applied for a grant to cover a $3.1M portion of the project, rather than requesting the entire project amount. This application was unsuccessful.
- Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (Rural and Northern Communities) – In 2019, the FVRD applied for $2.3M. We have not received an official response to this application.
In September 2019, the Province announced another intake of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure (Green Infrastructure-Environmental Quality). The application deadline is February 2020 and the FVRD intends to apply for funding.
Who can vote in the referendum?
As per the Local Government Act resident electors and non-resident property electors can vote. Previously in the April 2018 referendum, only resident electors were allowed to vote, but changes in the legislation in 2018 mean that non-resident electors (those who do not live in Cultus Lake Park as their primary residence but hold a Cultus Lake Park lease) can now vote. More detailed information about the referendum will be provided early in 2020.
What happens if the referendum fails?
If the referendum does not pass, the project cannot go forward, unless grant funding becomes available.
If a municipality was faced with financial challenges on a particular capital infrastructure project like this, they might choose to delay another project and use those funds to assist the project needing additional funds. For example, if a City was building an arena and experienced unexpected delays and cost increases, they might choose to forego building sidewalks in another part of the city and use those funds to offset the costs of the arena project. Regional districts are much different from municipalities. The FVRD oversees over 100 separate services across the region. Each of these service budgets is protected, meaning the FVRD cannot transfer taxation money from one service to another. If the referendum for the Cultus Lake sewer project fails, the only option remaining for the FVRD is to continue to apply for grant funding. The existing sewer system will continue to degrade and possibly fail. Residents will continue to be charged for the cost of funds borrowed to date ($3M) regardless of project completion. These costs were already reflected in this year’s tax bill to service area participants.
What was the capacity of the current proposed system and is it possible to downsize the sewer system to accommodate Cultus Lake Park only in an effort to reduce the overall cost of the project?
The proposed sewer system was designed to meet only the existing service area and the capacity was intended to accommodate the existing flows plus room for some minor growth. Unfortunately, as outlined in the November 26, 2019 Community Update, due to the faulty meters and the quality of effluent from Sunnyside Campground, the size of the proposed system is already at that projected future capacity. Staff and engineering consultants have considered other options, including whether a different type of treatment plant could be built at a lower cost. Unfortunately, these options are not available and will not achieve a cost reduction.
Did the sewer tax stop being collected? Shouldn’t there have been an accumulating fund to cover future sewer projects?
Debt servicing payments for the existing system ended in 2005. After that, the FVRD placed the funds into a sewer reserve each year. This reserve now totals approximately $220,000. These reserve funds were earmarked for maintenance and minor improvements as needed over time. As mentioned in the Community Update, Director Dixon will be using funds from reserves toward this project.
The inclusion of Sunnyside campground and Lakeside condos is not a "surprise" concept. Shouldn’t the engineers have been able to better account for the addition of these connections?
The addition of the Lakeside condo development has no effect on the need to expand the size of the new sewer plant. When this project was first approved, the plan was always to connect this new development into the existing sewer system. When the new sewer system was originally designed, the flow rates were calculated based on the actual residential sewer flow and estimated sewer flow for Sunnyside Campground. Actual data was used so that the system would not be over-designed which saved costs. The design for the loading from the campground was estimated based on typical averages of a campsite. After sewer samples were collected during campground usage, the design loads were adjusted. However, these estimates were completed before comprehensive pre-design studies were conducted. Once it was discovered that the meters were wired incorrectly, the flow amounts were in fact, nearly double what was reported. It wasn’t a surprise that Sunnyside Campground was going to be included, but the actual quality of the effluent was different than expected and ultimately had an impact on the project scope. Unfortunately, compounding factors have required this project to be larger, and therefore more expensive, than originally anticipated.