City to apply for infrastructure grant for Big Eddy water upgrades

The City of Revelstoke will go ahead with a grant application for two thirds of $6.15 million to upgrade the Big Eddy water system over 20 years.

Photo: Pixabay/Creative Comons


A number of residents attended the city council meeting on Jan. 27, keen to hear the outcome of the potential Big Eddy Waterworks redevelopment.

Councillors (excluding Connie Brothers and Scott Duke who were both absent) unanimously approved to go ahead with starting a process to replace or upgrade much of the water system, which a report found was aging and had capacity issues.

“The capacity of the wells, it meets, I guess, the requirement of the Big Eddy now,” City of Revelstoke Director of Development Services Mike Thomas said.

“It doesn’t meet engineering best practice, day to day demands and if the Big Eddy were to grow, it doesn’t meet future needs.”

This approval allows the engineers to apply to the government small communities grant and the council is hoping for two thirds of the total figure, estimated to be about a $5.7 million job.

“Nothing happens until we feel we have elector approval,” Mayor Mark McKee said.

That is expected to happen down the line. A verdict from the federal government on the grant application is anticipated in the fall of this year. Community consultation will be part of the process but it will be difficult for Big Eddy residents to understand the cost to them without knowing if grant money will be received. So, that means the project is on standby until the city gets a reply from the federal government.

The final residential decision will go through an approval process or referendum.

Here’s our story from Jan. 23:

Cost of Big Eddy water system pegged at $5.7 million over 20 years

A report made public on Jan. 23 outlines possible solutions to the Big Eddy water issues.

Development rejections, water quality issues and fire safety capacity issues that came to a head in the past year made dealing with the problem a key issue in the November municipal election.

For the first time, a report (the full report by MMM Consulting Limited is posted at the bottom of this story) has become available with definite information about the situation and the City of Revelstoke’s proposed solutions.

The proposed solutions include applying for a federal grant (the small communities fund before mid February) for two-thirds of $5.7 million dollars.

Although the expensive, multi-year upgrade is proposed, the report finds the system isn’t in too bad a shape, but it will require upgrades to meet Interior Health Authority requirements to allow for future development, such as better water flow to fire hydrants, better management systems and a new well and reservoir for better capacity. It also finds many of the pipes are just plain old, and will need to be replaced soon regardless.

The report states: “The acquisition study reviewed the existing infrastructure, management and finances of the Big Eddy Water District. Generally, despite aging infrastructure and limited funding opportunities, the system is in comparable condition to many similarly sized utilities around the province.”

The plan outlined in the report calls for a successful federal grant application in February to cover two-thirds of the cost, after which the city will begin the process to take over the Big Eddy Water District (BEWD) and users of the system are likely to pay for the last third of the costs.

Revelstoke City Council’s corporate services executive, Dawn Levesque, said BEWD has requested the water district become part of the city.

“At the moment there is some developments that can’t move forward because of IHA , Interior Health, regulations,” she said.

“So the limited water in the Big Eddy is actually hurting development there, it’s crucial. Council is looking at it as high priority.”

Some key findings in the report:
-There are capacity issues for the current two wells and one reservoir, both for water supply and firefighting.

-The pipe sizes are not up to current requirements, both for water, firefighting and future capacity.

-Hydrant spacing is inadequate, especially in the industrial area.

-There is potential for groundwater contamination in one of the two existing wells, although the second, deeper well is considered safe.

-The chlorine mixing system may not be adequate for homes located nearer to the two wells located on the far west side of the Big Eddy.

Some recommendations from the report:
-Drill a third well.
-Build a new, second reservoir at an estimated $2 million cost.
-Replace many water mains and distribution system, and add more fire hydrants.
-Make users pay for the upgrade.
-Install an electronic monitoring system.

Revelstoke City Council will debate this topic at their Jan 27, 3 p.m. public council meeting. City staff issued the following recommendations for council consideration:

-the submission of an application for the Small Communities Fund under the New Building Canada Fund for the Big Eddy Water Capital Improvements be approved.

-one third share of the eligible project costs and the full cost of all ineligible costs be included in the City’s Financial Plan

-all costs be recovered by the City through a capital charge on the users of the subject water utility.

-an Alternate Approval Process or referendum for any required borrowing and for the transfer of ownership of the Big Eddy Water Utility to the City within six months of receiving grant approval for the project be supported.

-staff be directed to proceed with scheduling meetings with the Big Eddy Water Utility and their users including public meetings to discuss the proposed plan.

If approved a public meeting for community consultation is expected to be planned for March.

(Clarification: When the Jan. 27 city council agenda was published on Jan. 23, it estimated the cost for the project at $6,150,000. The City of Revelstoke document was updated later in the day and that value was changed to $5,690,000. We have updated that number to reflect the new amount contained in the report.)
Here is the full city report and consultant’s report:

Emily Kemp is a freelance journalist and frequent contributor to the Revelstoke Mountaineer.