Council turns down Calgary pipeline
Okotoks: Town to continue studying options
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Tuesday, Sep 24, 2013 05:08 pm
Okotoks council turned down a water pipeline from Calgary at its regular meeting Monday and chose instead to keep its options open and continue looking at its alternatives for a long-term water solution.
Council voted 5-2 against a pipeline from Calgary with only Coun. Matt Rockley and Coun. Ray Watrin voting in favour of a pipeline.
After several hours of debate, council turned down the pipeline from the city and supported studying a regional water system to supply its future needs either via a Calgary pipeline, a water line from the Bow River just outside the city or potential regional scenarios in partnership with the Foothills Regional Water Collaborative.
Coun. Ed Sands said it was still premature to sign onto a pipeline from Calgary at this point. He said a recent engineering study showed the two best options were either a pipeline from Calgary or a water line from the Bow River and both need to be studied in more detail to determine the best solution.
“I wanted to research both of them, that was my main motivation,” he said. “We’ve got two solutions recommended by our consultants, for which we paid good money, let’s research them both.”
According to a recent Town report, keeping the existing water treatment plant up and running and using a pipeline from the Calgary to supplement Okotoks’ water needs will cost $97 million over the next 25 years. However, this does not include the price to connect a pipeline from the Calgary boundary to water infrastructure in the city. On the other hand, building a water line from the Bow River just outside the city to supplement the Town’s needs would cost $119 million over 25 years.
Rockley, who brought the question of a Calgary pipeline to council Monday, said he was disappointed with council’s decision.
“It’s really unfortunate that this council refuses to provide direction over one water solution over another,” he said.
Rockley said council has all the information it needed to make a decision and it is only continuing to put off difficult decisions over water.
“Bill Robertson and Ed Sands have been on council for 18 years and the water shortage in Okotoks has been an issue that entire time and they’re still gathering information,” he said.
Mayor Bill Robertson said the Town doesn’t have all the information it needs to make a decision on a Calgary pipeline, particularly the final cost of such a project.
“We’re talking about the long-term financial sustainability of our town,” he said.
While the provincial government could cover up to 90 per cent of the cost of a pipeline through the Water For Life program, he said there’s no guarantee it will cover the cost because the Province significantly cut funding to the program earlier this year.
Robertson said council’s decision narrows the Town’s focus to three options.
However, he said the Town’s long-term choice boils down to one of two options drawing from the Bow River.
“Whether it’s treated water (from Calgary) or a raw water pipeline, look at both options fully to determine which is the best for our community,” said Robertson.
Coun. Florence Christophers said she isn’t opposed to a Calgary pipeline, but wants the Town to look at a regional water alternative through the Foothills Regional Water Collaborative to possibly resolve Okotoks’ water woes.
She wouldn’t provide any details, saying they’re still confidential at this point, other than that it would involve a water line off the Bow River and could serve the region south of the city.
Christophers said it’s worth waiting a little longer to take a closer look at potential regional solutions.
“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it could be an answer to our prayers, I feel that strongly about this and I think it warrants additional conversation with the Province,” she said.