Victoria council mulls new sewage plan at Clover Point

Some councillors surprised to see Clover Point back in the plan

Some councillors with the City of Victoria are surprised to see Clover Point now pegged as one of the two possible sites for a sewage treatment plant.

But after a lengthy debate last week, the majority of councillors agreed to request a meeting between the CRD (Capital Regional District) and the Fairfield/Gonzales Community Association land-use committee (CALUC) to hear what the community has to say.

Mayor Lisa Helps, who is also the chair of the CRD’s Core Area Liquid Waste Advisory Committee (CALWAC), said the district needs an indication from the neighbourhood on whether they are willing to consider being part of the conversation for a facility at Clover Point.

Some councillors were hesitant to agree to anything since they hadn’t had a chance to digest the CRD’s new plan, but Helps assured the decision to go ahead with a community meeting does not set anything in stone.

“All our land use chair wants is the CRD to go and meet with them (CALUC) and have an initial conversation,” said Helps, noting Clover Point was once on the list of potential sites for a sewage facility when council put it forward as a suggestion.

“I think it is false that Clover Point has not been considered and in fact we have had a formal, very robust round of consultation to show that.”

Last week, the CRD selected McLoughlin Point and Clover Point as the two sites to explore building two secondary or tertiary sewage treatment plants, despite an estimated price tag of around $1 billion. The province has also now waded into the matter by offering to help the region find a solution and facilitate a way to move forward.

According to CRD staff, a sewage treatment plant at Clover Point would be constructed underground so it’s out of sight from the public just like the pump station currently there now. Construction would likely take a couple years, which raised concerns from Victoria councillors about public access during that time.

Coun. Geoff Young, who’s also a CALWAC director, is opposed to the idea and told his colleagues by voting for it, they are building a cage.

“I think that the impacts on the neighbourhood will be significant and I think we are going to have a lot of concern from neighbours,” said Young, adding the public also hasn’t had a chance to think about what’s now being proposed at Clover Point.

“This is not a simple motion, this is a motion that’s moving this council to this direction and I think it’s a very bad direction to go.”

The plan will also be submitted to Esquimalt council for discussion.

Nearly two years ago, Esquimalt council rejected a plan for a single site at McLoughlin, citing concerns with the environmental impact and size of the facility.

The township’s Mayor Barb Desjardins, however, is now in favour of exploring the new plan and hearing what the private sector has to offer.

“I am hearing from residents that, given the right circumstances, to reconsider. I think the fact that this is not a single site option is really important as part of that discussion,” she said, adding she’s still frustrated with how McLoughlin wound up back on the table after Esquimalt shut that door.

“It is not by the community bringing it forward, but by default of the CRD. It comes back as somewhat heavy handed again and that’s really not the way to go about the process.”

Both Helps and Desjardins will head to Ottawa at the end of the month to meet with federal ministers about the CRD’s plan for a sewage treatment facility.