Spallumcheen farmers thanked for ‘generous’ land donation towards Wastewater project

Bob Flemming, Director, Electoral Area B, Spallumcheen Mayor Christine Fraser, Deanna and John Toporchuk and Amanda Shatzko, Vice Chair, Electoral Area C on Tuesday, Nov. 12. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
John and Deanna Toporchak were given a plaque in recognition of their land donation to the Wastewater Recovery Project, which will be mounted on the site once the project is complete. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
The Toporchaks sign the papers on their donation of farm land to the Wastewater Recovery Project. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

After the Township of Spallumcheen received funding for a $36.9 million wastewater project, the next step was to find land on which to build it.

Thanks to John and Deanna Toporchak, that’s no longer on the to-do list. The two donated have land from the Spallumcheen farm they purchased in 1971 for the Wastewater Recovery Project, which will include a new treatment facility, sludge treatment system and about 12 kilometres of main pump stations running along the Swan Lake corridor.

Spallumcheen Mayor Christine Fraser welcomed the Toporchaks to the Council Chambers on Tuesday to offer thanks on behalf of the township, the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) and the Okanagan Indian Band (OIB).

“I really just want to thank you for coming today,” Fraser said to the Toporchaks. “Without this generous lease opportunity for the land that’s right close to the project, we would have had a really tough time moving forward.”

Fraser credits the project’s success so far to the high level of cooperation between a wide range of actors, many of whom have grown up together in the Spallumcheen area.

To illustrate the small-town dynamics at work, she recalled her first memories of the Toporchaks – back when she was just old enough to walk.

“I’ve known the Toporchaks since I was about four years old,” said Fraser. “They’re a great asset to our community and this project would not have been possible without them.”

The Toporchaks have lived at their farm since 1972. “We used to grow hay and grain and had cattle and sheep, and we did that for 45 years,” said John.

“We’ve been in the area for a long time and the area has been good to us, so we figured we’d give back to them.”

As John explains, giving the land up for the purpose of this project was a win-win.

“We were for it all the time because it gives us irrigation. We had irrigation for only 160 acres and now we’ve got irrigation for 500.”

In addition to a bouquet and a print of the Spallumcheen Valley, Toporchaks were presented with two plaques recognizing their contribution to the project: one for them to keep, and one to be placed on stone at the site, once it has been built.

The Okanagan Indian Band, Township of Spallumcheen and RDNO teamed up in 2015 to work towards providing wastewater service to the residents and businesses in parts of the Band, RDNO’s Electoral Areas B and C and Spallumcheen’s southeast industrial area.

READ MORE: $24M invested in North Okanagan wastewater recovery project

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It’s rare to have a partnership across so many jurisdictions for a project of this scale, as explained by Amanda Shatzko, RDNO Director and Vice Chair of Electoral Area C.

“It’s a project that benefits more than one community; it’s all the way throughout the North Okanagan and across jurisdictions, whereas normally infrastructure like this is only within one jurisdiction or municipality,” said Shatzko.

“This one is going across boundaries, which is really important to see.”

The project will improve water quality in Swan Lake, provide 600 acre-feet of irrigation water as well as economic opportunities for years to come, according to Mayor Fraser.

Provincial and federal governments approved the township for $24.3 million as part of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program – funding that will cover about 73 per cent of the project. The total cost of the project is $36.9 million, and the remaining funding will be be provided by RDNO borrowing ($5.2 million), an Okanagan Basin Water Board grant ($5.9 million) and Township of Spallumcheen reserves ($1.5 million).

The money and the land have been taken care of, but there are many steps ahead. Design, development, tendering and construction of the facility and sewer lines will take place over the next two to three years.

The process will be continually supported by the Wastewater Recovery Working Group, a group of community volunteers who have been involved since the early days of garnering support for the project with petitions.

“I’d also like to thank the Wastewater Working Group for coming today and for all the work that they did on the project,” said Fraser.

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
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