Calgary water pipeline gets council support
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Nov 27, 2013 08:33 am
Okotoks town council is looking to Calgary as the source of the town’s long-term water supply.
On Monday evening, council voted 4-3 in favour of a motion by Coun. Matt Rockley supporting a water pipeline from Calgary to supply water for future growth and development in Okotoks. Councillors Rockley, Carrie Fischer, Tanya Thorn and Ray Watrin supported the move, while Mayor Bill Robertson and councillors Ed Sands and Ken Heemeryck voted against it.
Rockley told council a pipeline from the Bow River in Calgary is the most viable and economical solution. He said the communities of Airdrie, Strathmore and Chestermere already access their water from the city and are happy with their agreements.
Rockley said many Okotoks residents feel the same way.
“At the doors I didn’t hear opposition to this,” Rockley said of his election campaign in October. “Let’s concentrate on one solid direction rather than a number of options.”
The Town estimated its current system can only support a population of 30,000 people, However the town’s population is more than 26,000 people.
Fischer said council should have gone this direction two years ago. She said she went to 5,000 doors during the election campaign and almost every person asked her what she planned to do about the water situation. When she told them she supported water being piped from Calgary Fischer said she got overwhelming support.
She said it’s time to make a decision.
“Why are we debating this and doing studies?” she asked. “We’ve got several years of studies and surveys and reports. I confidently believe we have the information. The treated water in Calgary is the way to go.”
Sands expressed concerns some councillors supported the motion based on promises they made during the election campaign to have a solution to the water situation within a month. He said Town administration is already looking into various options for long and short-term solutions for a water supply the decision could cost the town months in time and money if it’s found to not be viable.
Robertson expressed concern if Okotoks connects to Calgary’s water source they will be locked into it forever. He urged council to deny or postpone the motion until they have more information.
“All my time on council never have we tried to make a decision without all the information,” he said. “I would like to look at all the information and see what’s the best choice. Our taxpayers are expecting nothing less.”
However, Thorn argued the water situation in Okotoks has been looked at long enough.
“I don’t think it’s prudent to study a solution that we have enough information on,” she said. “We are at a state of emergency, in my opinion. We need to take water off the decision-making plate. I feel very comfortable we have enough information to make this decision.”
Before the vote, council heard a presentation from consultants working with the Foothills Regional Water Collaborative about work in progress to study alternative water supplies.
Contractors Randy Boras with MPE Engineering and Lisa Fox with Sustainability Resources, urged council to hold off on making a decision on the Calgary pipeline.
They told council five communities that are part of the collaborative are willing to offer water licenses to assist Okotoks with a short-term solution to its water supply situation.
Boras said up to $250,000 in grant money is available to support communities in performing studies and identifying viable water licenses for the town.
“It will help buy the community time so they can make good decisions,” he said.
The motion requires Town administration to draw up agreements between the Town, City of Calgary and Province including details like construction schedules and funding. It calls for a progress report in three months and final agreements to come to council for approval in six months.