The Capital Regional District has been given an extra six months by the federal government to get its sewage together.
The PPP Canada extension — coming less than 12 hours before the deadline to file a detailed treatment plan — means the Crown corporation’s promised $83.4 million is still on the table while the CRD nails down its options.
“I think it shows there’s some faith in the project and some willingness for the funders to stay at the table as we move forward,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, chairwoman of the CRD’s core area liquid waste committee.
“It’s very good news.”
PPP Canada is one of three federal sources of funding for the project, the costs of which are now estimated at $1.052 billion. The federal commitments total $253.4 million, while the province has agreed to provide $248 million. The balance is to be covered by the region’s taxpayers.
The CRD was already operating on a one-year extension from PPP Canada. Last week, B.C. Community Minister Peter Fassbender wrote federal Infrastructure and Communities Minister Amarjeet Sohi asking for “latitude” regarding the March 31 deadline.
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.
The three sites have not been endorsed by Esquimalt or Victoria councils. While McLoughlin Point is zoned for a sewage-treatment plant, Macaulay Point and Clover Point are not.
Municipal approval of the sites is not likely to come easily. Esquimalt council unanimously rejected a sewage-treatment plant at McLoughlin in 2014 after hearing from hundreds of people opposed to the plan; Clover Point is a popular waterfront park across Dallas Road from homes.
Helps admitted that the road ahead isn’t easy. “But it hasn’t been an easy road for the last 20 years, so I don’t know why it would get any easier now.”
The mayor said the next step for the city will be to engage residents about the possibility of burying a plant at Clover Point.
“I want to listen to their concerns and their fears and their worries, and make sure if something does end up at Clover Point, it meets their needs,” she said.
While the municipal councils consult with residents about the sites, the CRD will undertake a process with the private sector looking for innovative ideas for McLoughlin, Macaulay and Clover points, as well as for a centralized plant in Rock Bay and the West Shore “and anything else that the private sector might have in mind that we might not have contemplated,” Helps said.
“Everyone keeps talking about [how] we have to go back to a centralized plant at McLoughlin Point because it’s $200 million cheaper,” she said, referring to earlier plans to put a single treatment plant in Esquimalt. “I think we don’t know yet what this new solution or any other solution will actually cost.”