Busy year expected for Greater Victoria sewage project

Seaterra moving forward with planning the $782-million infrastructure project

Residents of Esquimalt have yet to give their final say on the latest tentative agreement to base the Capital Region’s sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point.

But that isn’t stopping Seaterra –  the branded name of the overall program –  from moving forward with planning this $782-million infrastructure project. And 2014 looks to be the busiest year yet.

“I think people are more upbeat than they have been in a long time,” says Seaterra program director Albert Sweetnam.

After a “huge” initial pushback from Esquimalt following the first public hearing on the rezoning for the treatment plant, four hard months of negotiation and a lengthy discussion around the CRD board table in early December brought agreement on an amenity and mitigation package for the Township.

“We feel that this is an excellent deal for Esquimalt, in terms of both mitigation and compensation,” Sweetnam says.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins agrees and says she hopes citizens across the region will be given more certainty about the project soon.

Whether her citizens feel the same way is at issue – a public hearing on the new deal is expected to be held no earlier than February.

Sweetnam refrains from framing the Esquimalt situation as frustrating, unlike CRD board members who have hinted that the process has been somewhat hijacked by one demanding municipality, albeit the one hosting the largest component in the planned system.

“This is democracy in motion and we have to respect the wishes of Esquimalt and the wishes of the public,” he says.

With groups in the region calling for everything from complete shutdown to more marine environmental reviews to asking the province for a deadline extension to allow a total rethink of its plans, Seaterra took the initiative to produce a “Myths and Facts” handout and make it available at public meetings.

“We love the public to be party to these processes as much as possible. However, it’s important that the public actually inform themselves before taking very strong positions,” Sweetnam says.

Work continues behind the scenes at Seaterra on the project, as well as in various municipalities, where infrastructure will be upgraded in preparation for the new system.

The project’s key component benchmark objectives for this year:

Craigflower pump station construction completed (early 2014)

Procurement component completed on resource recovery centre at Hartland (early 2014)

Contract awarded for McLoughlin plant construction (shortlist was named in 2013), excavation completed, concrete foundation started

Design completed on Arbutus Road attenuation tank, (design/construction contract awarded in 2013)

Contract awarded for design/build, design started on expanded Clover Point pump station

Design started on Trent Street siphon/East Coast Interceptor, Macaulay Point pump station and Macaulay force main

Contract and design contract awarded on Clover force main (along Dallas Road)