Multi-year deal secures future of sewer and diking

In addition to mapping the future of sewage treatment in the Duncan area, a 49-year deal signed this week will also allow diking work that should protect from future flooding. - Andrew Leong/file
In addition to mapping the future of sewage treatment in the Duncan area, a 49-year deal signed this week will also allow diking work that should protect from future flooding.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

Dumping treated sewage into the heritage Cowichan River could end by 2021 under a historic 49-year contract inked by local leaders this week.

The long-term deal replaced a tentative one concerning treatment at Cowichan Tribes’ Tzouhalem lagoons.

It was signed by Tribes, plus Duncan and North Cowichan councils.

The double-prong deal involving the Joint Utilities Board sports a perpetual dike permit to upgrade and maintain part of the south-end diking network also sitting on Tribes land.

That permit will protect some reserve land, central Duncan, and North Cowichan’s VIU village area.

Terms of Victoria’s $2.7 million in phase-one dike-upgrade cash — for the Somenos Creek-Lakes Road area — depended on the three parties reaching common ground.

Tribes Chief Lydia Hwitsum and Duncan Mayor Phil Kent were content with the contracts that include a three-year termination clause.

“There hasn’t been a long-term lease in place for some time, and that was part of the impetus for a new lease — so we can start planning,” Hwitsum said of long-run waste treatment for some 31,000.

The deal basically clears short-term fog in sewage treatment and dike planning.

“The old 1996 agreement-to-lease deal was tentative,” Kent said.

“This basically provides reliable tenure so we can focus on reviewing and revamping our (JUB) liquid-waste management plan to include storm- and drainage water.”

It recognizes new treatment targets in B.C.’s wastewater legislation too, Hwitsum explained of JUB’s ongoing upgrades.

Kent said lagoon treatment now chlorinates then dechlorinates to secondary and tertiary levels.

Duncan’s 2011 budget includes $250,000 for JUB operations, plus $50,000 in capital costs, staff said.

The contracts benefit an array of landlords, including Tribes, Hwitsum noted.

“This provides Tribes multi-jurisdictional planning we need to keep fostering (our lands).”

That’s because JUB commitments spell 130 more sewer connections for Tribes community development, says a press release.

The signing partners would share profits from selling treated waste for irrigation, it notes.

Eagle Heights and Cowichan Bay residents are also served by the contract that, under Cowichan’s Central Sector Liquid Waste Management Plan, could see river discharge stop within a decade.

That goal pleased Hwitsum, who called the troubled river “a life source for our Cowichan Mustimuhw (people).”

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