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Water deal approved for Nelson-area development

The Regional District of Central Kootenay has come to terms with the province and developer of Shannon Orchard on a new water system. - Nelson Star file photo
The Regional District of Central Kootenay has come to terms with the province and developer of Shannon Orchard on a new water system.
— image credit: Nelson Star file photo

The Regional District of Central Kootenay has approved an infrastructure agreement clearing the way for a large North Shore housing development.

The deal is expected to see an amalgamated water system built for the proposed Shannon Orchard development and potentially residents of Ridgewood Road and Shannon Point as well. In all, the combined system could serve more than 160 connections.

The three-way deal, which also involves the provincial government, calls for the developer to design and construct the system and turn it over to the regional district to maintain. At full build out, Shannon Orchard would have 88 single-family homes.

Regional district director Ron Mickel says the Ministry of Forests office in that neighbourhood is key to the arrangement because it has an existing sewage outfall, water lines, licenses, and intake on Shannon Creek.

He adds local government agreed to “facilitate” the agreement due to ongoing requests from area residents to run their water systems.

“We felt instead of having three or four small ones, the best way would be one large one,” Mickel says. “We’re not really supposed to be helping developers. Our money went into the potential expansion to allow us to service existing homes.”

Shannon Point presently has its own water system, including a lake intake and treatment plant, but is expected to switch over to the new system.

In a 2010 referendum, Ridgewood Road residents voted to turn their system over to the regional district, but since then have spent money investigating what’s required to bring them up to Interior Health standards. It has yet to be decided if they will be part of the joint plan.

The agreement ratified last week was in the works for 18 months, while Shannon Orchard has been on the books for several years. Mickel says the purchase agreement on the property was subject to the water deal being approved.

The regional district is now expected to obtain the necessary water licenses, while the developer buys the land. Mickel anticipates the water system will be designed and installed next year and the first homes will go up in 2014.

A combined sewage service is also possible, pending the outcome of a referendum.

“To me it’s a good proposal because the whole area needs to look at what’s going to happen with sewage,” Mickel said. “If we can centralize a treatment system, I think that would benefit everyone.”

Concerns persist

Some existing water users on Shannon Creek, however, remain concerned the new water system may leave them short.

Mel Reasoner of Willow Point Lodge says allowing a developer to “leapfrog” their intake sets a bad precedent. “It’s a recipe for conflict,” he says. “It’s bending if not breaking the rules.”

He’s worried that by tapping the creek above the 34 existing water licenses, the development will reduce their streamflows. He argues not enough data exists to make accurate flow assessments, and climate change has not been taken into account.

Reasoner says pumping water either out of the lake or from the current intake into a reservoir would satisfy their concerns, but Mickel is confident there is enough water for everyone.

As part of the agreement, the developer will continue to monitor the supply.

“If we get some new numbers in the next six to eight months, we always have the lake to fall back on,” Mickel says. “The developer doesn’t want to put a pump in the lake, but if needed, it can be done.”

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