I'd like to extend my personal thanks to the more than one hundred residents who attended the Town Hall Meeting on Monday, September 13, 2010. The City was grateful for the opportunity to explain the proposed Water Reclamation Facility and the potential agreement with Shell Canada Upstream. As always, it was exciting and energizing to hear the comments, questions and suggestions from the many engaged citizens who participated in the meeting.
The feedback generated at the meeting is tremendously useful for the City and Shell as we work through the implementation details for the project. Certainly, common themes emerged around areas of particular concern to the community.
We certainly hear the concern that the project costs might exceed budget estimates and the reluctance of local taxpayers to fund any overage. The City has employed a construction manager and independent cost consultant to ensure that designs and construction adhere to budget constraints. Shell and the City have established in the contract a consultation phase to explore alternatives if tenders are over funding allotments.
Similarly, the City heard loud and clear that the local businesses who currently rely on access to City water to enable their frac related operations need to be fully accommodated by the new facility. Council has always been committed to ensuring that the reclaimed water alternative is available before the use of potable water is discontinued, so as to protect local jobs. Knowledgeable individuals from the industry advised us at the meeting that the usage figures quoted by the City underestimated peak usage. We got working on that right away following the meeting and have been able to verify the accuracy of the comments. Although the historical averages for usage are important for revenue projections, they do not properly quantify the peak demand levels. The City and Shell have identified some options for accommodating peak usages and we are confident a solution will be in place before the facility is put into operation.
Finally, many individuals spoke to the need for continued efforts to secure sufficient potable water for the City's current and future needs. The Water Reclamation Project is an important step, and will free up the nearly 25% of potable supplies now consumed by the frac industry. However, projects such as a large (500,000,000 gallon) reservoir which are on the drawing board need to proceed. The land for the reservoir has been purchased and construction would mean that a full year's supply would be available in the system should fresh water supplies be compromised. Accumulating the necessary funding is an issue that needs to be worked through. The reservoir is a costly project and putting in place the infrastructure to obtain water from a new source would be hugely expensive. However, various speakers at the meeting encouraged the City to seek out private sector donors who might be willing to contribute, and that possibility will be explored.
Council appreciates the efforts of our engaged citizenry to come out to events like the Town Hall meeting, where an honest and open dialogue occurs. This Council continues to promise you that we will always provide you an opportunity to tell us, face to face, what issues matter to you, and how we can best meet your needs.
Mayor Mike BernierDawson Creek