Saturday, February 8, 2014

Morning Star Newsclips, February 7 - in case you have missed them.

The above letter published by the Morning Star is an abbreviated version of my letter for the sake of making it eligible for publication. The full text of my letter is as follows:

Letter to the Editor
January, 2014

The year 2014 has arrived. 12 years has passed since Master Water Plan 2002 (MWP 2002) appeared on the scene with great fanfare. It was going to revolutionize our water distribution system. All domestic customers would be supplied with the same quality highly treated water and agricultural crops would be irrigated with cheap, untreated raw water. It would be somewhat costly at $72 million but the end product would justify the costs. All concerned approved the plan and everyone was happy. Sort of.

In fact, just for comparison let us quickly see what total separation as envisioned by MWP 2002 would have cost water customers. Financing costs of $72 million would have been about $5,040,000 annually for a 20-year period. We would not need the Duteau Plant and all crops would have been irrigated with raw water. Water treatment costs would have been a fraction of what they are now. The actual separation costs were estimated to be $35 million. Amazingly, having down $12 million worth of separation the new MWP estimates the additional separation costs at $81 million for a grand total of $93 million! Someone is wrong!

Two years later MWP 2002 was basically trashed. Addendum 2004 was born.

This Addendum was not a real Plan but a hastily cobbled concept. It was a total opposite of the recommendations of MWP 2002. It was a return to the old VID model which provided up to 20%  of irrigation water for domestic consumption. Domestic customers continued to receive the same water  as did agricultural crops just like in the old VID system. The only difference was that the water now was treated at great expense. In fact, the cost of the treatment plant itself cost the domestic customers $28-29 million (depending whose report we accept). That  is an annual debt servicing cost of about $2.0 million.

Added to this cost in 2011 was a treatment cost at Duteau Creek of $1.7 million (for a total cost of  $3.7 million). For this huge annual cost only 20% (or less) of the total domestic water demand (about 1.5 million cubic meters) of Greater Vernon was supplied. The remaining 80% of domestic water was supplied by the Mission Hill plant.

Let’s look at the treatment costs at the Mission Hill treatment plant.

Upgrading the MH treatment plant cost  $7.5 million (annual cost of financing is about $525,000). In 2011 treatment costs were $625,577 for a total annual cost of $1,150,577. An additional  feature of this plant is the ultra violet disinfection which is not provided by the Duteau plant.

Let us have a quick cost comparison of treatment costs using the above figures. Mission hill water costs ~$0.25 per cubic meter, Duteau Creek ~$2.14 per cubic meter. If all of the domestic water was provided by the MH treatment plant the total cost of treatment would have been about $1,600,000 instead of the current combined cost of ~$4,900,000.

What benefits do customers enjoy from these expenditures? Many of the 20% DC customers enjoy much cleaner water. However, there are many more who have absolutely no benefits. I will use my situation as an example.

My water source prior to 2002 was Kalamalka Lake from the Coldstream Creek Road pump house. It provided chlorinated Kalamalka Lake water for which I paid about $0.56 per cubic meter. In 2013 I paid $1.83 per cubic meter for DC water which is the same quality as the water I received from Kalamalka Lake: chlorinated lake water. So much for that.
To date GVW has spent ~$67 million on MWP infrastructure. The referendum of 2004 approved a maximum of $35 million. Imagine the public reaction if we would spend 90% more on the referendum approved Sport Fields at the College site. They would be furious. Yet there was no public outcry about the 90% over spending on the MWP referendum funding limit. Perhaps they did not know about the over spending. The simple reason for this over spending was the fact that there was not a set plan but a little project of $2 million here, another project for $2.5 million there till we got to a point that the consultants and staff were basically stuck with the over sized Duteau Creek treatment plant.

The sad thing is that the $67 million is only a down payment. The newest “plan” is proposing an additional expenditure of ~$111 million. The new plan would include two filtration plants to the tune of $57 million and a whole lot more. Even with this additional investment an estimated 9,000,000 cubic meters of filtered water would be used for farm and orchard irrigation. That is more than the total domestic consumption. All at the domestic customers expense. It would also create a triple distribution system: one for domestic use only from the MH treatment plant, one for raw water distribution to some agriculture properties and one for a mixed agriculture/domestic use. This is the system that would use the filtered water on crops.

A kick in the teeth of the water customers is the fact that the new DC filtration plant would only be treating 110 ML/day (110,000 cubic meters, 47% below capacity). The treatment plant we constructed had a maximum capacity of 162 ML/day. Obviously, it was over built by about 47% or in dollar terms by about $10-12 million. So that portion will be a loss to the ratepayers.

One other proposal that is mystifying: A pump station on Okanagan Lake will pump clean OL water to Goose Lake for irrigation purposes. Infrastructure cost to domestic customers estimated to be $2.6 million plus an estimated annual pumping cost of $160,000 for an annual cost for the next 20 years of $342,000. It would be cheaper to continue filling Goose Lake from the Duteau Creek supply as is being done now.

Up to about 2007 the promise of eventual total separation was still promoted. Now it appears to be dead. Whenever I bring up the subject at committee meetings I get a response like “that horse is out of the barn” or similar words. In my opinion that is the wrong attitude. Just because we made a mistake we should not suffer with an inferior product for decades to come. We don’t see any “fast cats” (ferries) churning the waters between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. They were the wrong boats and were replaced with appropriate vessels at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. We should consider a similar solution.

Next time I will discuss how I would change the plan. Look for it in the Morning Star or search my blog. It can be found by searching Google for  “coldstreamernews”.

Gyula Kiss
Councillor, Coldstream



Anonymous said...

Ultimately it would have made more sense to have one water treatment plant on Okanagan lake in the first place, instead of two plants. Transfer Kal licences to OK lake, along with whatever remaining licence exists on BX creek or Swan Lake. It seems like decisions are being fast tracked and not thought through just because IHA says it needs to be done NOW. Id rather see us work towards a solution that will keep rates affordable, and ensure that adequate storage/supply are a priority. Since when did IHA get so much authority? An agency that's own finances are a joke should not be dictating how other agencies make decisions. They seem to have an illusion that the public purse is bottomless. I dont agree with you on a lot of things Gyula, but this issue I support your ideas 100%

Coldstreamer said...

Nice to know that at least one of my ideas is acceptable. I had that problem with my pears when I insisted on bringing the Forest Research Centre to Vernon. That seems to have worked as well.

Coldstreamer said...

That is "peers" not pears.

Anonymous said...

Good for you, on all your efforts to enhance the quality of life for ALL in the North Okanagan Gyula.

Looks like the amalgo amigos are attempting to further distract us from real issues (water etc), and their true agenda yet again. See letter to ed today.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, from them hosting their own meeting, and would it not be a perfect opportunity for them to promote their amalgo candidates?

As a side note, it is my understanding that one of the reasons taxes have been raised is to provide services for developments. Interesting to see some particular developers raise an issue which ultimately leads back to them, and their enhanced wallets.

Coldstream Ratepayers News! All Coldstream residents are ratepayers!

The opinions expressed by "Coldstreamer" are strictly his own and do not represent the opinions of Coldstream Council!

Because I value your thoughtful opinions, I encourage you to add a comment to this discussion. Don't be offended if I edit your comments for clarity or to keep out questionable matters, however, and I may even delete off-topic comments.

Gyula Kiss;


We must protect our rights and freedom! (Photo courtesy of D. Gibson) Click on eagle to watch EAGLECAMS

About Me

My photo
I have been a resident of Coldstream since 1976. I have had 15 years of experience on Council, 3 years as Mayor. As a current Councillor I am working to achieve fair water and sewer rates and to ensure that taxpayers get fair treatment. The current direction regarding water supply is unsustainable and I am doing all I can to get the most cost effective water supply possible.