By Lyonel Doherty
The Town of Oliver will have to dig deep, not only to reroute part of its irrigation canal, but to pay for its $10.4 million price tag.
On Monday council chose the option of rerouting the Gallagher Lake siphon to follow Highway 97.
The decision was made after listening to TRUE Consulting that presented various options for council to consider.
Engineer Steve Underwood recommended Option 3 (re-routing the siphon). Repairing the existing siphon (at a cost of $5.3 million) ranked second.
Last year a major rock fall event damaged a section of the irrigation canal at Gallagher Lake. The Town was able to fix it temporarily with financial help from the province. (This fix could last several years, according to Underwood.)
Repairing the siphon, favoured by water councillor Rick Machial, decreases capital costs and environmental impact, but has the largest risk (rock falling) during construction.
Machial said the Town simply cannot afford $10 million, and if growers are charged significantly more for their water, they won’t be able to farm. However, in the end, it was Machial who made the motion that council go forward with Option 3, saying they will definitely need government funding for that.
Rerouting the canal will require an environmental impact study and archeological review. Right-of-way agreements will also need to be acquired.
Option 3 would involve connecting to the irrigation canal upstream of Gallagher Lake. A siphon would travel from this connection point to the Town’s right-of-way following the creek, where it would connect to Highway 97. The siphon would travel south, then across Osoyoos Indian Band land, where it would reconnect with the existing canal. (The existing siphon would remain in operation during construction.)
Permission for this option is required from the Ministry of Transportation (to install the pipe along the highway).
Approval would also be required from the Osoyoos Indian Band and adjacent property owners. The report by TRUE states that the Indian band prefers Option 3 with some conditions.
Underwood said rerouting along the highway will avoid the issue of future rock falls but will cause the longest disturbance along the 3 km route.
Councillor Larry Schwartzenberger noted that Gallagher Lake trailer park owners are concerned that construction will cause their foundations to shift.
“That would be our liability or part of our liability,” he said.
Underwood suggested they should get a legal opinion on that, but the hope is to mitigate that risk during construction.
Water councillor Andre Miller said he was in favour of a permanent fix so that they never experience rock fall damage again.
He said if last year’s crisis happened during the summer, all plants, vineyards and trees would have been lost and would have cost half a billion dollars.
Councillor Maureen Doerr agreed, saying they could be left without water down the road if something catastrophic occurred.
Councillor Jack Bennest said council doesn’t have much choice.
“I think we really have to bite the bullet (and go to our funding partners).”
Local MP Richard Cannings said the government is spending lots of money right now, and a lot of it is on infrastructure projects.
“This is what they want to spend money on; they prefer more permanent solutions.”
Mayor Ron Hovanes said Cannings and local MLA Linda Larson will be hearing from council soon. Larson said she has already started looking into the funding issue.