Big Eddy property owners to decide future of independent water district

The Big Eddy Water District petition period begins with a Dec. 14 open house about proposed upgrades. Proponents of the plan to upgrade the existing system have until Feb. 5 to get 50% of property owners to sign on.

A fire hydrant. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons image by tuchodi.

At an open house on Monday, Dec. 14, Big Eddy property owners were asked to sign a petition allowing the City of Revelstoke to take over that neighbourhood’s water system, which would pave the way for the estimated $5.7 million in infrastructure upgrade project.

Big Eddy property owner Jean Trudel receives his petition papers from City of Revelstoke's Dawn Levesque. Photo: Melissa Jameson/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Big Eddy property owner Jean Trudel receives his petition papers from City of Revelstoke’s Dawn Levesque. Photo: Melissa Jameson/Revelstoke Mountaineer

While many were quick to sign the petition, some property owners could be seen leaving with their petition papers in hand, likely wanting more time to review their decision. This followed presentations at the meeting by Interior Health Drinking Water Officer Rob Fleming, City of Revelstoke Director of Engineering and Development Mike Thomas, and Director of Corporate Administration Dawn Levesque.

Currently, the Big Eddy Water District operates as an independent water system, and due to its set up, is unable to apply for any grants to reduce the cost of the upgrades. The upgrades would include:

  • Dedicated supply line to reservoir
  • Construct a second reservoir
  • Improved controls
  • Construction of a third well
  • Upsizing transmission water mains
  • Upsizing water mains for fire flows
  • General water main upgrades

Turning the water system over to the city would mean access to a $3.8 million dollar grant through the Building Canada Fund, leaving about $1.9 million to be paid by property owners through parcel frontage tax, payable over 20 years. This would be in addition to the yearly water rates.

“It’s trying to even it out, making it fair for all residents in the Big Eddy,” said Mike Thomas, city Director of Engineering and Development.

For Big Eddy Water District Board members Brian Dyck and Don Hall, the decision is obvious, based on the fact that given its current board is unable to apply for grants due to requirements from federal and provincial funding agencies.

“It’s six of one and a half dozen of the other,” said Dyck, speaking after the open house. “It’s not about whether or not the rates are going up. The Big Eddy Water District Rates are going to go up too. Regardless of the decision, Interior Health has said these upgrades need to happen.”

Dyck said should the Big Eddy Water District remains the way it is, rates would likely go up at a higher percentage than what the City of Revelstoke is able to offer. He estimated they could be increased as much as 25 per cent, and even then they couldn’t match the city’s timeline for finishing the necessary upgrades.

According to Thomas, the City’s timeline to complete all of the required upgrades is three years.

“We’d take three years just to fix the dedicated line,” said Dyck, who noted a great working relationship with Fleming.

“Rob’s been working with us great. We need a large water operator. That’s $60,000–$80,000 per year. The City has one on staff. In the long run the city is the better deal.”

Fleming, who has been working with the Big Eddy Water District on concerns over its water system for the past two and a half years, said that the goal of Interior Health is to work with water suppliers.

“It’s about working together, getting compliant with the drinking water act,” he said, noting how impressive it was for the City of Revelstoke to be one of the recipients of a Building Canada Fund grant. “Big Eddy needs some work. There is some risk to the system. I wan to see the Big Eddy get safe, clean, reliable tap water. I think you deserve that as residents of Revelstoke.”

However, George Buhler, who is also a Big Eddy Water District Board member, disagrees with associated costs being passed on to Big Eddy Property owners.

“I think it’s asking too much of residents. They should be charging less,” said Buhler.

In order for the proposed changes to be approved, 50 per cent of landowners need to sign the petition, and it must equal 50 per cent of the assessed land.

Thomas noted that completing the upgrades to the Big Eddy Water system would likely increase property values.

“The opportunity for the Big Eddy to grow is based on good infrastructure,” he said.

The petition will remain open until the February 5, 2016 deadline.