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Great Lakes Article:

Pipeline application almost ready
Municipal officials want to see how much money is available
Phil McNichol
The Owen Sound Sun Times

Local news -  The application to find out how much grant money might be available to help build a regional water pipeline from Lake Huron to Walkerton and other communities in Bruce County is almost ready to be presented to the province.

“We’re hoping to get it in in the next week or two,” said Andy Valickis of the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA), who is preparing the application on behalf of Brockton, which includes Walkerton as well as Saugeen Shores, South Bruce Peninsula and Arran-Elderslie.

Valickis is project manager for the Brockton class environmental assessment that started last year looking at various options for the long-term upgrade of the Walkerton water system. He’s also project manager for a similar class environmental assessment in Saugeen Shores.

South Bruce Peninsula and Arran-Elderslie are also going through similar exercises, prompted by tough new Ontario drinking water regulations.

The idea of building a regional water pipeline from Wiarton on Georgian Bay, or from Southampton on Lake Huron, is one of the options being considered by all four of the environmental assessments. The mayors and senior staff from the municipalities recently met to discuss the possibility of working together. All four councils have passed resolutions approving the joint filing of an application for funding under the province’s Ontario Small Town and Rural (OSTAR) program.

Dick Radford, Brockton’s chief administrative officer, described it as a “fact-finding” mission, designed only to find out how much grant money would be available for a regional pipeline. “We’re in the process of putting that together,” he said.

There’s no detailed plan yet. But the application has to include a verbal description of the pipeline proposal, including a route and it had to name either Wiarton or Southampton as the initial water source, said Valickis.

Southampton was picked because it was cheaper option than Wiarton and one the province would be more likely to fund, he said.

Valickis said the pipeline route described in the application goes from Southampton down Bruce County Road 3 to Paisley and from there to Walkerton. Other communities along the way or near the pipeline could be hooked up to the system.

Valickis stressed the application does not mean the pipeline project has been given the local green light. He echoed Radford’s comments that it’s strictly designed to find out how much provincial money it would get. The consultants working on the Brockton and other class environmental assessments need the information to complete their financial evaluations of the various options, he said.

He was reluctant to discuss how much a regional pipeline would cost because “all the numbers are so preliminary.” But no doubt it’s a “big project” that would cost “10s of millions,” he said.

And he also said the per-household costs could be “very reasonable” if two-thirds senior government funding is available, one-third from the province and one-third from the federal government, along with one-third municipal funding.

Valickis admitted that technically a class EA should be done for the regional pipeline concept before an application for funding is submitted. Instead, it’s being submitted under the Brockton environmental assessment.

“We just want to know,” he said. “Before we go through the trouble of the area EA we want to find out if two-thirds funding is available for an area system.”

Valickis and Radford said provincial officials advised taking this approach. But no one in the government has already indicated the application will be approved.

Consultants working on the South Bruce Peninsula class EA have told Sauble Beach area property owners the estimated cost of building a pipeline from Wiarton to Hepworth and Sauble Beach is about $29 million. They’ve suggested an alternative, consolidating existing communal systems in the Sauble and Oliphant areas at a cost of $7.2 million. But many homeowners are already balking at $1,100 in annual water costs.

Meanwhile, the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation at Cape Croker near Wiarton has raised concerns about the idea of a regional pipeline from Georgian Bay or Lake Huron. Chief Ralph Akiwenzie fears it would deplete the freshwater resource of the Great Lakes, harm the aboriginal fishery in local waters and undermine the incentive of inland communities to protect their groundwater.

John Steele, a spokesperson for the Ontario Environment Ministry, said the idea of using Great Lakes water to supply inland communities is not new in Ontario.

“It’s been done before,” he said, noting the City of London gets its water through a pipeline from Grand Bend on Lake Huron. And the plan to build a pipeline from Collingwood to the Alliston area is “under way,” Steele said.

In the mid-1980s some municipal politicians floated the idea of a pipeline from Georgian Bay to Toronto to supply the city with a better quality of freshwater than Lake Ontario offered, but no detailed studies were done and the idea sank.
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