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Despite protests, Greater Victoria sewage plan marches on

Capital Regional District directors once again shut down a motion by naysayers Wednewsday to pull the reins on the region's secondary sewage treatment project.

Saanich Coun. Vic Derman put forward a motion for an independent review of the plan and parallel public input process to solicit alternative ideas, both in an effort to appease many residents who feel their concerns have not been heard.

The motion was defeated by directors 10-4, or 41-14 when weighted for population size.

Two disparate perspectives seem to be solidifying among local politicians. A majority of directors are publicly committed to the current plan because of a strict federally mandated compliance deadline of 2020 and the fear of losing federal and provincial funding, or two-thirds of the project's $783-million price tag.

On the other side, a minority of directors that include Derman, View Royal Mayor Graham Hill, Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins believe public confidence in the project continues to erode due to poor consultation.

"There is huge concern in the general public in terms of trust, confidence and confusion as to what the heck is going on," Desjardins said.

"And we're not doing ourselves any service down at CRD by not taking a pause, making sure we've answered those questions, and getting communities to come onside. You do that by understanding and by listening to them."

The CRD is well into its request for proposals process for a wastewater treatment plant at McLoughlin Point, scheduled for completion by 2016. Esquimalt has made that process more dubious by tweaking zoning approval to encourage commercial, residential and amenity development on the site in conjunction with the CRD project.

In a statement released last week, CRD chair Alistair Bryson said alternative sewage treatment options have already been considered and deemed to be too costly, and an appointed seven-person commission of unelected officials is already well underway in planning the current project.

"Pursuit of a new or parallel process could undermine the independence and work of the commission and significantly delay the entire project," Bryson said.

Desjardins warned public discontent isn't going to disappear anytime soon.

"Many members of the public are trying to provide alternatives and questions that would provide better options and they're being shut down, and that is not acceptable," she said.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

Correction: A previous version of this story stated Coun. Vic Derman's motion included an extension of the federal compliance deadline for sewage treatment.

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