Date Posted: October 27, 2011
Print Edition: October 26, 2011
The public-private partnership (P3) project proposed by the City of Abbotsford to design and build a $291,000,000 water source and treatment plant at Stave Lake has been a hot topic in this year’s municipal elections in Abbotsford as the four mayoral challengers oppose incumbent mayor George Peary on the issue.
Last Thursday at Rick Hansen Secondary School, Stave Lake Water Project representatives from the City of Abbotsford set up an open house to invite citizens to get informed about the proposed project. At the open house there were a number of displays and handouts to illustrate the Stave Lake Water Project. City officials, including a professional engineer, were on hand to discuss the project with anyone who might have questions.
Jay Teichroeb, general manager of Economic Development and Planning Services had a chance to speak with The Cascade during event about the significance and importance of the Stave Lake Water Project according to the City of Abbotsford.
“If the Stave Lake Water Project didn’t go through, the City of Abbotsford wouldn’t have a sufficient supply of water to meet [their] basic needs past 2016. And so it is very important for the future of our city that we have a new water source,” explained Teichroeb. “We have known this for a long time, but ultimately the voters get to say. The choice will be in their hands. If the project is turned down, it is clear that our water rates are going to go up substantially in order to encourage people to use less water.”
Teichroeb said that he and the creators of the Stave Lake Water Project gave the subject a lot of consideration and research in order to determine what would be the best way to approach the problem. “We looked at 19 different options,” he explained. “We looked at Chilliwack Lake, Harrison River, Harrison River, Hayward Lake, Miracle Valley, Stave Lake, and variations of all those. We looked at different ways to deliver the project. The conclusion of the experts over analyzing this over many years was that this was the most cost-effective way of delivering the project and the best project in terms of giving quality water to the residents of Abbotsford.”
Half a dozen open houses like the one at Rick Hansen Secondary are being held to promote the Stave Lake Water Project leading up to the referendum. Teichroeb stated: “People need to be informed. We’re spending our money on creating an information brochure that we will be distributing to each home, our website, advertising our open houses, conducting our open houses, and taking information tours to malls and grocery stores. One of the biggest issues we have as a city is a lack of awareness that this is even out there.”
Also in attendance at the event was mayoral candidate Gerda Peachey, who is openly opposed to the P3 project. More people who oppose the project could be found gathered right outside the high school. Protesters affiliated with the Water Watch Mission-Abbotsford group held signs protesting the project and handed out material to promote their side of the debate as citizens walked into the Stave Lake Water Project open house.
All mayoral candidates have addressed the P3 issue directly in their campaigns; candidate Meghann Coughlan has strong feelings about the P3 issue.
“My short answer to the P3 proposal is no. Absolutely not,” she said. “The idea of a private company having any hold over our water is terrifying. Water is life. They’ll tell you that it will be privately/publicly run, but there has to be an alternative that will keep our costs down and the control solely in our hands. Private companies, by nature, are concerned with their shareholders, not the public. How can we be certain that water quality, conservation of ecosystems, pollution control, and customer service will be more of a priority to them than profit?”
Coughlan admitted, “Do I have an absolute alternative? No. I’m no engineer. But I do believe that we can find a cost-effective, environmentally friendly, public solution to our water problem. One that will meet the needs of both Abbotsford and Mission residents.”
The referendum question regarding the P3 project will be included in the municipal election on November 19.