Monday, November 19, 2007

Richter Report - Nov. 19, 2007 - Groundwater Users and Municipalities in all of BC - ALERT!

Richter Report: The Draft Water Management Plan (WMP) should ring a lot of “Warning Bells” – Is another Translink in the works?

In the next month, Township Council will be pushing through a draft Water Management Plan (WMP) that will be the first of its kind in the province of BC and which will become legally enforceable through provincial legislation. It will also be the model for the rest of the province. The intent is well-meaning but the financial ramifications are far-reaching.

Given that 80% of the water in the Township comes from municipal and private wells, and that our aquifer water levels have been dropping significantly, the need to protect groundwater is almost universally accepted throughout the Township. I think we all agree that something needs to be done. The question is what.

As a result of a 2006 Ministerial Order under Part 4 (2004) of the Water Act, the ‘what’ has now been defined and is open for public input. This input can be given over the next 2 weeks at Open Houses on Thursday November 22/07 and Thursday November 29/07 from 4 to 8 pm at Firehall #6 in Murrayville.
Public attendance at these open houses is absolutely crucial as it will determine the direction of future water protection in the Township (and the province because Langley is the ‘model’). Should nobody attend or make any comments, the plan will be rubberstamped as is and sent to Victoria by December 31, 2007 for final approval and implementation via an Order-in-Council and subsequent binding provincial Regulations.

The draft WMP can be seen on the Township’s website in PDF format (45 pages). It consists of 44 recommendations: 24 of these are “Core Recommendations (CR)”. According to the interagency bureaucracy planning team which wrote the report, these core recommendations are considered central to the plan. Apparently, removing any one of them will jeopardize the integrity of the plan and the Ministerial Order.
The goal of the WMP is to ensure safe and sustainable groundwater for the community for generations to come. The interim target is to reduce overall groundwater demand by 30% across the Township within 10 years. These are admirable goals but…

From my perspective, the key points in the plan on how the goals will be achieved include:

· CR (Core Recommendation) 2 (p.25) – Install meters on all water supply wells within 8 years: Meters will be installed on both existing and new municipal and private water supply wells. (There are 15 municipal wells and at least 5000 private wells in the Township).
· CR 5 (p.26) – Initiate universal metering on the municipal water system leading to a graduated rate structure
· CR 8 (p.27) – Initiate a fee structure for groundwater use
· CR 11 (p.28) – Limit the amount of water extracted by municipal supply wells
· CR 13 (p.28) – Mandate hydrogeologic assessments for any new water supply wells with a pump capacity greater than 190 litres per minute
· CR 15 (p.30) – Implement a decentralized sewage management plan for the Township which could include mandatory sewer hook-ups, regular cleaning of septic tanks, and tertiary septic systems
· CR 16 (p.30) – Establish a local environmental protection officer to enforce provincial legislation and local bylaws relevant to the plan
· CR 23 (p.38) – Establish a body (or Local Conservation Board) dedicated to implementing and managing key elements of the WMP. “This Board would have the ability to borrow money, apply for funds and collect any needed levies from residents and businesses in order to effectively recoup costs associated with implementing the WMP“ and “as a vehicle to fund aspects of the WMP”. [In other words, this board will be a separate operating and taxing authority similar to Translink].

So there you have it. The real gist of the matter is the creation of another Translink. This provincial government has been adept at sheltering itself from the key issues that matter to the people who live here. They have Translink to protect them from criticism on transportation. They have school boards to protect them from criticism on education. They have health boards to protect them from criticism on health care. Now they will have water/conservation boards to protect them from criticism (and taxation) on groundwater.

Overall the costs for the core recommendations in Langley’s WMP amount to approximately $800,000 per year excluding meters. This works out to about $8/year/person in the Township which will be raised by a conservation levy (just like the stormwater levy which is now paid by all property owners whether or not you get the service). Universal meters are estimated to be between $13 and $18 million depending on the metering technology selected. Private well meters will be in the range of $10 million or $1,000 to $2000 per well.

If you are currently on your own well and septic in this Township, you need to read this report in detail and come to the public open houses to express your opinion because once Council rubberstamps this and sends it to the Ministry, it will be too late for changes – not only for Langley but for the entire province because Langley is the model.

Personally, I think that the rural taxpayers in this community have been shouldering an unfair burden of taxes and this plan, while well-intentioned, will only aggravate that situation. Rural taxpayers already pay a premium for minimum services. If this goes through, they will pay a lot more.

This is no longer about a lifestyle, this is now about a lifetime. Will you be able to afford to retire on your rural property in Langley?
Council needs to hear your thoughts on this plan before they vote to give it final approval. Based on a 4 page staff summary report, they gave it preliminary approval by sending it to public Open House without even reading the whole 45 page report because it was not circulated to Council before this first vote was taken.

Editor's Note: This is Part 1 on the WMP. See Kim's clarification post at Part 3 and another post at part 2 on the WMP.

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