B.C. backs CRD plea for more time on sewage plan

The provincial government is backing the Capital Regional District’s plea for more time to submit a detailed sewage treatment plan to the federal government.

B.C. Community Minister Peter Fassbender has written federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Amarjeet Sohi asking for “latitude” regarding the March 31 filing deadline.

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The district, which is already operating on a one-year extension, risks losing $83.4 million from federal Crown corporation PPP Canada if it fails to get more time.

The district said Wednesday that it plans to ask for an extension to August of this year.

Fassbender, who was unavailable for an interview Wednesday, notes in his letter that the project has faced “significant difficulties” in selecting a site and choosing the right technology. But he says there has been a “resurgence of commitment” among the region’s mayors to find a way forward.

The CRD is proposing a two-plant option that would see one plant buried under the park at Victoria’s Clover Point and a second in Esquimalt, at either McLoughlin Point or Macaulay Point.

Fassbender says the province is trying to help move things along by getting Partnerships B.C. to do a “fact-finding” review of the technology options. He expects that work to be done by May.

A facilitator then will work with regional officials to try to find consensus, he said.

“The province recognizes that these activities must be successfully concluded within a very short timeframe to position the CRD to move forward and meet its regulatory requirements,” he writes.

“To allow time for this work to occur, we respectfully request latitude regarding the federal March 31, 2016, filing deadline.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who chairs the CRD’s sewage committee, said she was happy to see Fassbender “stepping up and advocating on behalf of the region with the federal government.”

“He obviously has a direct line to [Sohi’s] office,” Helps said. “It’s wonderful, I feel like the province has become a champion of this project.”

She said the province is taking an active role looking at what the private sector can do for the project and in bringing about a solution.

Helps said she is also optimistic about the new federal budget, saying that previously committed federal infrastructure funds for the project remain in place.

lkines@timescolonist.com

— With files from Jeff Bell

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