ASK Salt Spring Answered: Ep. 1 Gary Holman Housing Issues


    Damian Inwood: So I'm, sitting here with Gary Holman, who is the CRD director, and we've just been listening to the ASK Salt Spring session. welcome Gary.  Gary Holman: Yeah, hi, Damian Damian Inwood: Yeah. now you were talking quite a bit about water today, and I was interested in what you said about the, the CRD having five water districts and I think two sewage systems under its, under its control. Is that correct? Gary Holman: Yeah. And, by a happy coincidence, I guess, the Fulford Water District was meeting just before the ASK session. So I'd just come out of a meeting with the Fulford Water District who were, reviewing a consultant report on a strategy to ultimately replace their water supply and distribution systems, which is, a considerable cost and, and of considerable concern to the commission, and, and of course to, Fulford water rate payers.  Damian Inwood: Did you say that the potential cost was quite high? What would that be? Gary Holman: I forget the exact number, but it's in the millions of dollars. If you were to replace their entire water supply, which comes from Weston Lake and the distribution system to Fulford Village, it would be in the millions of dollars. And you're talking, I think there's 108 properties, 95 of which are built on, so, you know, ballpark a hundred, households that would, be responsible for several million dollars to ultimately replace that system. Now, but the strategy, I mean, you don't have to do it all at once. So the strategy is you do it over time, in part because of ability to pay, but also because you want to focus on the parts of the system that are the most vulnerable. There's a whole number of that's why you hire a consultant to look at all the factors that determine how do we tackle this beast. you've got several kilometers of pipe involved, so which ones are most critical to try and replace first So that, that was the purpose of the report. Damian Inwood: Right. Now, I understand from what you said that the, that you know where the leaks are, and they are between 20 and 30% of the total amount of water. That seems like an extraordinary large amount,  Gary Holman: that, 20 or 30% that came up in the ASK session of I'm not sure exactly where Fulford is in there. but for CRD water districts, and, you know, for that matter, north Salt Spring are by far our single largest water utility all have water leak issues because they all have asbestos cement, mostly anyway, distribution and supply lines that are decades old and, and are leaking. And they're also leaking at the connections, you know, where you connect the household, to the distribution system. So each of those water districts have their own systems, their own leakage issues, and in general, the leakage rates range from in the order of 20 to 30%. Not exactly sure where Fulford is in there, but even at the low end, it's still considerable.  Damian Inwood: So really, the cost of Salt Spring Island wide to upgrade the water systems here is multiple millions, isn't it? Gary Holman: Indeed. Especially if you include North Salt Spring. yes.  Damian Inwood: And where would that money come from? Gary Holman: Well, from the rate payers, now, there are, infrastructure programs grants available. We, we've used, like the CRD, it is the local government body that receives federal gas tax transfers. So Salt Spring gets about, it's based on a per capita, basis. Salt Spring gets about $600,000 a year. So that's grant funding that has been applied to various water district center, sewage treatment, systems. Maliview, for example, the Maliview, sewage treatment plant is going to be completely, basically replaced. We got a separate infrastructure grant for that. So there are infrastructure grants available. Typically, though they haven't been aimed at distribution systems, they've been aimed at treatment systems. So that's the grant that Maliview got so that's another possible source of funding. But in large part, it comes back to the rate payers and the key problem with respect to CRD water utilities is the diseconomies of scale. They tend to be small systems, and those distributions, systems are decades old, and those chickens are starting to come home to roost. So, you know, one approach is just to continue to fix the leaks as they come up. And, you know I think that's a valid while it is obviously not ideal, and may seem a bit haphazard, it may be that financially, that may not be the worst approach that you can take, to simply fix leaks as they come up. And when you fix a leak at a certain spot, maybe you then replace, you know the pipes on either side of that. I'm not an expert, but it, it's a huge cost. and, and it was the subject of a consultant's report of the Fulford Water District this morning.  Damian Inwood: And I think you said that the LCC the Local Community Commission, they will be meeting in June and they now cover water districts. Is that correct? Gary Holman: No, the opposite, they will take over a number of island-wide services. They won't be taking over area specific services because the commissions that exist for those services now are essentially elected, in effect, elected by rate payers at their AGMs. So in effect, like the Fulford Water Commission, for example, the commissioners that sit there are in effect elected by their rate payers to deal with their specific interests. You know, I initiated the LCC concept. And the reason why I did not support extending its authority to those areas specific services is because in my view, the commissioners that represent those rate payers should be rate payers themselves. They should live in the area versus an LCC, which is elected at large, which may by happenstance happen to be a rate payer in Fulford or wherever. But for the most part, they wouldn't be. And so you've got elected, you would have elected officials making decisions for areas. and they're not rate payers. I just didn't think from a governance perspective that was that was defensible.  Damian Inwood: So, and I think we, we talked a little bit about Vortex too, and, how the Vortex situation complicates the issues for Fulford. tell me a bit about that.  Gary Holman: Yeah, so, Vortex, has a proposal for a tourism accommodation. And you know, I believe restaurant where the old Fulford Inn site was, so they have received their approvals from the Trust. The zoning was already there. They required a development permit from the trust or actually several kinds of development permits they’re next to the Fulford stream and estuary. They're next to the ocean. They've got streams flowing adjacent to or through the property, et cetera, et cetera. So there were several development permit areas that applied to that site. They've, as I understand it, received trust approval for all of those, so they can move ahead, but they still have remaining issues, regarding potable water supply. So there are two choices there. One, they can apply to join the Fulford Water Service area, and the commission would have to agree to that.  Gary Holman: My understanding is that they are seriously considering that and are likely to come forward with an application to join the service area. If they don't join the service area, then they have to fall back on groundwater, even rainwater catchment, you know, those sorts of things. So at some point, it's my understanding, and I obviously can't speak for the proponent, they will be making a formal application to join the Fulford Water Service. So there are some, there, obviously, there are incremental infrastructure costs that will be triggered by that. The first and foremost would be connecting the system, which more or less ends at the top of Fulford. The, the, the intersection of the Fulford Ganges Road and Beaver Point Road. They have to extend the pipeline down Beaver Point Road to the Fulford Hill, to the Fulford Inn site to the Vortex site.  Gary Holman: And then there may also be, and this is where it gets a bit complicated, because the consultant did in this report that the commission was considering this morning, the consultant did to a certain extent, touch upon the implications, of what some incremental infrastructure requirements might be within the system, there's clearly the extension of the system, but even within the system, it may require some additional investments. And the consultant, you kind of touched on that, and all of that would ultimately the commission makes the decision about whether, Vortex can join or not. The one possibility though is if there are upgrades required within the existing system, you know, in addition to connecting that system to the Vortex site, it may be that the proponent might make a contribution towards some of those costs.  Gary Holman: So that's not clear at all at this point, but there is that possibility. And that's in part why, the consultant touched on that issue. The other issue, of course, though, is the water supply of Weston Lake, whether there is sufficient water in Weston Lake, whether there is sufficient room within the Fulford water license on that lake to serve additional demand. So not only Vortex, but there are properties between the Vortex site and the Fulford system that may also want to join, which means additional water demand. The Fulford area is not fully built out. I think there's 95 properties connected. There are 108 that are possible. So there's even some development potential within the Fulford, service area now, so that the commission wants to make sure that they are able to serve them.  Gary Holman: And then there's, for example, the possibility of suites, which bylaw 530, I think in effect would legalize suites in Fulford, which is not the case now. So there's some additional demand. So aside from all of the infrastructure requirements, there's the sustainability of the lake itself. We don't want to get into a situation where North Salt Spring is in where in fact, they've had to impose a moratorium on new connections because the water supply, isn't sufficient to, sustain full build out, even for properties within their current system. So, that includes, for example, Channel Ridge, which has been impacted by the water moratorium; it impacts affordable housing. We don't want to get into that kind of situation for Weston Lake and the Fulford system.  Damian Inwood: Okay. So when will this be resolved, do you think? Is there a meeting coming up, of the local water commission that will look at this report and, and respond to it  Gary Holman: Yeah, the, so the commissions had a first look. They provided some initial comments. They want to meet with the consultant. And so there was a motion that I believe passed at the commission. I had to leave a little bit early to get to the ASK meeting. but they want to meet with the consultant, and there was a motion to that effect. So there, there'll be a, I believe, a virtual meeting with the consultant where the commission will go through the report in, finer detail with the consultant who actually did the work. so that would be the next step there. All the report does is lay out a potential strategy, which the commission may want to amend or revise or, whatever. There's no commitment to actually embark on the investment. I mean, the investment is ultimately in the tune of millions of dollars.  Gary Holman: But it's, it's the first step is to develop a strategy about how we want to approach that. There are other capital projects, underway, planned for Fulford. So they've got a lot on their plate. the Vortex application, that's not clear. That's up to the proponent about when they'd submit, but I would think, and don't hold me to it, but I would think, by the end of this year, we're going to be much clearer about, the Vortex proposal and maybe somewhat clearer on the, the strategy to upgrade, replace the piping systems.  Damian Inwood: Now, for those of us who live on, on wells and aren't part of a water system, would we have to kick in tax money towards these projects? Or is it purely through the rate payers of the water commissions themselves?  Gary Holman: Yeah, the latter. Yeah. It's the, it's the hundred and eight properties within the service area, and if Vortex joins, there'd be, you know, an additional contributor there. but no these are area specific services that, and the responsibility for those assets and liabilities lie with those rate payers.  Damian Inwood: Now, just briefly, I know you have to go, but there was discussion about raising the levels of various lakes and things, and, the fact that that would lead to compensation for property owners along the banks of them, for loss of land and things like that. Is that something that the, the CRD would be looking at or,  Gary Holman: I don't think we're there yet. the, the Weston Lake study indicated that there is a constraint there in terms of long-term sustainability of the lake. I mean, take into account climate change, like over time drought periods are going to be extending longer. So it's certainly come up for St. Mary’s Lake. and, I know North Salt Spring, one of the options they were considering was raising the level of that lake. the cost of increasing the weir height, on the outflow in the Duck Lake would be fairly modest. But what it would do, if you raise lake levels, you're in effect taking away property from, lakefront property owners. And the compensation for that take would be considerable. W we haven't got anywhere near talking about that for Weston Lake.  Gary Holman: I think the first thing for Weston Lake is to determine whether there is a sustainability issue. We've identified that there is. So, that probably the next decision would be Vortex, in or not, and that decision will bear heavily, or will be influenced heavily by, the commission's view and CRD's view of the sustainability of the lake. if we took Vortex in it, it's, it's going to it's certainly not going to alleviate that problem. It's going to accentuate that problem. So that'll be a decision for the commission, to make. But in terms of raising lake levels at Weston, you'd have similar concerns there. In fact, I think we had a lakefront owner attend the ASK meeting. Raising that issue specifically if you were going to raise the lake, you would raise compensation issues, for the lakefront owners. We haven't got to that point. There's been no discussion of that this point. Damian Inwood: And apparently risk of flooding according that gentleman too. Okay, Gary, thanks very much for coming in, and hopefully we'll make this a regular event after ASK Salt, Spring, and we'll be putting this on our website and possibly a podcast as well.  Gary Holman: Thanks. And when the local Community commission, so the election is May 27th, you may want to have some candidates on here to talk about their views, but certainly when they're elected, so you're going to have an elected body, the security director sits on that commission. So I think interviews like this involving the commission could be quite useful, I think, you know, to inform the community about CRD issues. But congratulations on the work you've done so far. The, your fundraising is going well. And you've got lots of public support and I'm sure that'll continue. And this, this station, when you get up and running fully, is Going to be a great asset for our community. Thanks, Damian.  Damian Inwood: Well, thanks very much, Gary