The City is awaiting long-promised support from the province to develop regional wastewater lines from Lacombe to Red Deer, including Blackfalds.
Unfortunately, the support is not coming fast enough as both Lacombe and Blackfalds are experiencing capacity issues with the lines due to rapid growth in recent years, officials say.
“We are coming to the point now where we are having some real issues, because these capacity issues affect between 30,000 to 35,000 people, so it is very, very much in the forefront of the Town of Blackfalds and City of Lacombe’s interests to make this happen,” said Mayor Steve Christie.
The initial plan began back in 2006 when provincial representatives sat down and talked about a regional initiative with regards to wastewater treatment. Eventually, with a business case in 2008, the plan was that three of the regional wastewater legs would be formed and all lines would be operational by 2012.
The first part of the line would cover from Olds to Red Deer and is now close to nearing completion. The west leg from Sylvan Lake to Red Deer was supposed to come second, with the north leg of Lacombe and Blackfalds to Red Deer being constructed last.
“In that initial plan, the north leg was supposed to be online in 2012. In the interim from 2008-2012, both Blackfalds and Lacombe did upgrades with the knowledge and expectation that we’d be online by 2012. Well, we’re not there, so both communities are at a point where we’d both need to spend approximately $5 million to bring them up to snuff – and that’s just Band-Aid upgrades,” Christie said.
“In 2012, we knew that we were going to need this because of the sheer volume of growth in Blackfalds and our capacity issues. In the last couple of years, we have bumped the north leg to second priority over the west leg, due to those issues. We got the paperwork done and now we’re waiting for funding.”
The Province of Alberta came to an agreement with the Central Alberta Regional Wastewater Plan that involved using funding from the Water for Life program.
This program uses a 90/10 funding formula, where 90% of the funding comes from the Alberta government and the other 10% would come from the municipal commission.
“That 10 per cent that we would use for regional upgrades is less than what we would spend on our interim upgrades. If we do those upgrades today, they’re basically throw away because we’re going to have to move to this regional line anyway,” Christie said.
Christie said that he has been working closely with the provincial government and that there are alternative planning methods being considered. For example, the project may be phased over a few years rather than doing all of the regional line in a single effort. Also, the Regional Wastewater plan is looking to using funding from the Building Canada project, which would save the province about 33% of the funding for the project.
“We are being given incentive by the province to work regionally – we have a very successful regional water line, and cut the ribbon on regional transportation and this would be another way that we could work with Red Deer and Blackfalds,” Christie said.
“Where we are at is we know that the project is approved. The provincial and federal governments know that this is a major need and we’re down to the matter of getting funding for the project.”