IRRIGATION DISTRICTS UNDER PRESSURE TO MERGE OPERATIONS WITH KELOWNA
KELOWNA - Kelowna’s MP Stephen Fuhr says the city risks missing out on millions of dollars federal infrastructure funding by squabbling with local irrigation districts about merging domestic water supply operations.
“The reality is there won’t be money from the federal side unless they can get their act together,” Fuhr said, on the phone from his constituency office.
But the four irrigation districts — Black Mountain, Glenmore Ellison, South East Kelowna and Rutland — would be mistaken if they interpret Fuhr’s words to mean the Kelowna-Lake Country MP supports their cause.
“Amalgamation is the only thing that makes sense,” Fuhr says, adding he is familar with the Kelowna Joint Water Committee integrated water supply plan and has had extensive discussions with the city around the situation.
“I fully support Kelowna council’s move to amalgamate the irrigation districts. The mediation effort should be about how, not if, we are going to amalgamate the irrigation districts."
The supply plan calls for $360 million worth of infrastructure investment over 15 years with integration of the four irrigation district systems with the city water utility as the end goal.
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran says council believes integration can be done for aproximately half the price in half the time. Fuhr says a dollar figure has not been discussed, but the clock is ticking on applications for the $125 billion federal infrastructure funding to be made available to Canadian communities over the next four years.
“The first two years is rebuild and refurbish, then the next two years are new projects, new infrastructure, so we need to move quickly,” Fuhr says.
Premier Christy Clark has said publicly no irrigation districts in the province would be forced to merge. The communities ministry has appointed George Abbott and Chris Trumpy mediators in the dispute. No timetable has been set for the mediators to conclude negotiations.
The irrigation districts have accused Basran and council of playing politics with domestic water supply. Gord Ivans, chairm of the Kelowna Joint Water Committee did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Basran and his council declared last year a safe domestic water supply was a top priority for the term. The irrigation districts have grappled for years with varying water quality, with some domestic customers living for extended periods under boil water advisories from the Interior Heatlh Authority.
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