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Council Approves Water Project in Principle

Two-meeting Tuesday nets big ASAP decision

Alberta Creek

The big take-away from the double meetings held Tuesday night was the advancement of a water initiative proposed by new Director of Operations Karl Buhr.

A Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting that began at 6 p.m. was followed by a brief Special Council meeting.

The Alberta Supply Augmentation Project (ASAP), found on page 87 of the June 4 COW meeting agenda, is a plan to utilize currently untapped water from Alberta Creek, adding a third watershed to the community's resources.

Buhr noted that Public Works has been diligently identifying leaks around the community for the past few months. When leaks are on private property, homeowners are responsible for covering the costs of repairs, and these efforts have been paying off. According to the report, daily water demand which peaked back in January at over 800,000 gallons per day, has dropped to around 300,000 gallons since addressing the leaks.

Searching out the leaks continues, but demand is a separate issue from supply. Buhr emphasized his concerns for a low supply in the summer ahead are based on snow-pack levels and drought predictors.

This project has both a big price tag and is on a tight timeline. Buhr said he has a goal of getting the ASAP operational in eight weeks. He appended an engineer-recommended cost estimate of $721,000 for the project design to the report, along with potential options for generating these funds.

Buhr says there is a good chance that the Village's existing water sources will not be able to meet demand this year, saying the risk of running out of water is unacceptably high. The report says that the project is a "prudent response" to this risk, and will help to "future-proof" Lions Bay against shortages predicted Metro Vancouver's long-range climate projections.

A third water catchment could keep drinking water available to residents even in the event of a forest fire in either the Harvey or Magnesia watersheds.

Under time pressure to address other agenda items in the initial COW meeting, Council deferred a decision to the second, Special Council meeting of the evening.

While much of the content of the second meeting was moved to a closed session, Councillor Neville Abbott spoke on behalf of the Infrastructure Committee, which endorsed the ASAP.

Following lengthy discussion, including an admonition from Chief Administrative Officer Ross Blackwell that council has to either decide to place their trust in staff recommendations or not, council voted to support the project in principle.

Earlier in the evening, council also addressed current grant requests; 13 applications totalling $11,595 in cash, along with approximately $5,565 of in-kind support.

There were in-person presentations from three of the 13 requests (found beginning on page 29 of the meeting agenda). Former mayor Brenda Broughton spoke to the funds requested for Remembrance Day services. Councillor Abbott, speaking on behalf of the Bird-Friendly group, clarified that they are not seeking any funding and in fact would like to return the $300 that remains outstanding from a previously-issued grant. And resident April Houweling of the recently-formed Howe Sound Revival organization gave details about her plans (should they receive a grant) for establishing an underwater hydrophone for listening to marine mammals in Howe Sound.

Council approved minutes from meetings on January 23 and 30, February 6, 13 and 27, March 5, and April 2, 2024. They also discussed potential topics and contacts to be made at the upcoming Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) meetings, as well as accepting some materials regarding a future strategic planning session.

Financial Officer Joe Chirkoff outlined this year's budgeting process, and noted that he is currently putting together a short survey for residents to identify priorities for the upcoming year. He said he continues to seek feedback from councillors and the public to keep the process as transparent as possible, and all stakeholders to communicate how things are going. Blackwell noted that staff want to have next year's budget passed by December, hence the need to begin the process right away.

Public participants throughout the evening included resident Marek Sredski who said that while he was happy to see the initiative to draw water from Alberta Creek, he felt the proposed costs warranted more scrutiny.

Kambiz Azgordegan stressed the importance of sleep to good health, and asked that a barrier and further signage be placed in the parking lot in Lower Kelvin Grove to facilitate local residents' rest.

Former councillor Norm Barmeier addressed the possibility of a grant to assist with the cost of the ASAP project. He said the recently announced Green Municipal Fund looks like a good match for the objectives of the project, and could cover as much as 60% of the eligible costs to a maximum of $1 million.

The next regular meeting of council will be June 18.

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