CRD directors working without a net on sewage project

View Royal mayor a little nervous about what new board may come up with

The Capital Regional District’s sewage treatment project is moving forward to a Sept. 30 funding deadline with a new board.

For at least one member of the CRD’s liquid waste management committee, letting go and allowing this partially new group of individuals take the reins on a massive project involving other people’s money is a little bit scary.

“You have mixed feelings for sure,” said View Royal Mayor David Screech. “It’s a real leap of faith that we have placed in this board. At the end of the day we are going to be in a position where we have to accept whatever they bring forth in order to retain the (federal) funding.”

With decisions previously made by the local committee essentially “out the window,” he said, over the next three months it’s “absolutely essential” that CRD directors take a step back, let the board dive into the files and assemble a business case for the project. “I feel pretty strongly that we weren’t getting anywhere anyway,” Screech added. “(But) until we know what they come back with, we’ll be worried a bit.”

The new board, which has expected to begin working this week on a business justification for the project, based on its “environmental, social and financial benefits,” makes its first progress report to the CRD board next month. The fact the new board is required to meet a minimum of once each quarter (three months) – the CRD sewage committee meets every other week – effectively eliminates much of the discussion between CRD politicians. Recommendations on the final project will be announced by late September.

Established after the province became more directly involved in the estimated $1 billion project, the new board’s mandate is to see the project through to completion. Its goals and objectives appear similar to those pursued by the since-disbanded core area wastewater treatment commission (formerly Seaterra) – the board is responsible for siting, project management and expenditures, among other aspects. But the province will be watching this group’s actions more closely than the previous regime.

Similar to Seaterra, a project director will be hired to oversee the creation and implementation of a plan. In the interim, CRD general manager of parks and environmental services Larisa Hutcheson will serve in the role.

The CRD board must still give final approval to the business case before it is submitted to the federal and provincial governments, and will maintain responsibility for any changes that could affect the scope, schedule and budget for the project.

The new project board, to be chaired by lawyer and experienced large-project manager Jane Bird, includes past members of the since-disbanded Seaterra Commission, including former chair Brenda Eaton, an economics expert with experience on many large corporate boards; and former vice-chair, engineer Colin Smith.

Other board members include design, procurement and construction consultant Jim Burke; infrastructure development consultant Don Fairbairn, CRD board vice-chair and Southern Gulf Islands director Dave Howe, and CRD chief administrative officer Robert Lapham.

“They seem like a highly qualified group of people with a lot of collective experience dealing with major projects,” Screech said. “I was certainly impressed with the experience of all of them … I think we’re fortunate to have them.”

CRD board chair and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins echoed Screech’s comments in a news release, indicating she is very positive about the makeup of the new board.

“Their caliber of expertise and experience with large, complex infrastructure projects means the project is in very good hands and we thank them for taking on this important work for our region,” Desjardins said.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com