I attended the meeting at the Schubert Centre in May that was put on by the group asking for an independent review of the long-term plan for water for the Greater Vernon area.
The group, made up of concerned citizens included several experts on water projects and former city council members. They made a very good presentation with several key points including;
1) Duteau Creek (the primary water source under the existing plan) is several times shallower than either the Okanagan or Kalamalka lakes.
2) Duteau Creek needs much more treating with chemicals than Okanagan or Kalamalka lakes would because the latter have very deep gravel beds underneath them that act as natural filtering agents.
3) Duteau Creek in dry years may not be a dependable water source i.e. it may actually go dry.
4) Kelowna and Penticton use Okanagan Lake water as their primary water source and its cost of water is one-third what Vernonites are currently paying.
After the presentation several questions and comments were made by the people in the audience. The tone of those attending was clearly very positive towards the idea of an independent review by an independent consultant who is an expert in the field.
Also in attendance were four city councilors and the Vernon mayor. One of the councilors made the comment to the crowd that this was a very important issue because the existing plan called for another $120 million ($200 million after financing costs) to be spent before it is complete so our water rates will have to continue to go up substantially to pay for this future expenditure.
Another councilor indicated that “it was not their understanding that the facts were as presented” but that they would pursue it.
I left that meeting thinking that this was a no brainer. How could anyone not believe that there was not enough valid and critical points made by this group to warrant at least an independent review?
Everyone in that meeting “got it” and no one presented any argument contrary to the concerns expressed. How could city council not want at least a validation of the existing plan using a credible third party i.e. independent expert water consultant?
The referendum request to the Vernon population for $40 million to continue with the existing plan was turned down last fall.
Too bad the referendum didn’t have a part two to it – would you be in favor of spending a couple of hundred thousand dollars to hire an independent consultant and publishing a report directly to the public to make sure the existing plan is a valid one? I have no doubt that Vernonites would have voted overwhelming “Yes” to part two.