Water on the way

Okotoks: Town working on interim plans until pipeline

By: Roxanne Blackwell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 10:53 am

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Okotoks is continuing to push closer to its water capacity, but town officials say residents don’t need to worry about their water supply.

The Town has water licenses for 30,000 people and if the community keeps growing at the same pace it means the population will hit that number in two years. The town is working on a long-term water supply pipeline from Calgary, but water won’t be flowing through it for another three to five years.

Town of Okotoks municipal engineer Marley Oness said they’re controlling new developments to make sure there’s more than enough water to go around.

“We have a water queuing policy,” he said. “We don’t approve new subdivisions to develop until we have acquired the licensing that would be able to service that development. We're not going to approve new subdivisions if there’s a chance that could go over that license capacity.”

But slowing down growth in the town isn’t the plan over the long run.

The Calgary pipeline is just an addition to the water supply, not a replacement. The town is currently working on purchasing new water licenses for the next three years that would bump the supply up to 31,500 and would ideally allow the town to continue to grow at the same rate.

“We’re up against a wall right now because right now we can't approve anything further until we acquire these transfers,” he said. “When these ones come through, the ones that are in the works we will be able to approve another 100 acres of development which translates into those 1,500 people.”

In the meantime, the Town is continuing negotiations on the $80-million water and wastewater pipeline with the City of Calgary. The timing works well for Okotoks, as Calgary is currently in the process of negotiating a new master servicing agreement for all of its external customers, including Cochrane, Strathmore, Airdrie and Chestermere.

The town can’t apply for funding until they have an understanding with Calgary, and they can’t finalize their plan with Calgary until the pipeline is already built. Once that plan is finished this year, Okotoks will be able to piggyback onto the set out guidelines and form a tentative agreement so they can move onto the next step – finding funding.

“I would say all indications are that we will be able to have our own temporary agreement going by September or October,” Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson said. “Once we have the agreement – a letter of understanding from Calgary – then we can apply for funding and start moving things,”

The biggest question remains how much the province is willing provide for the project.

“The Alberta Water for Life plan originally said the province would fund 90 per cent of a pipeline like this, so we'll see,” Robertson said. “I’m not sure of the exact percentage that the province is going to cover.”

They’ll also be looking for funding from the federal government with the Building Canada Fund, which would then divide the costs between the three levels of government. Robertson said they met with the province’s minister of environment Robin Campbell last week to hash out some of the details, including the possibilities of utilizing temporary water transfers once the pipeline agreement is signed.

“He gave us some assurances that once we have everything in place they will help facilitate interim temporary water license transfers,” Robertson said. “We definitely will have something in place before we get the temporary transfers.”

Once the agreement is signed this fall, and funding is secured, construction on the pipeline will ideally begin in early 2015 with completion by 2019.

“Who'd have thought that water would be so complicated?” Robertson said. “It’s hard for other communities in Alberta just to fathom how critical a situation it is to us.”


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