Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr crossed the lake and his riding’s boundary Tuesday to announce a timeline extension to the city for a grant that would benefit West Kelowna’s Rose Valley Water Treatment Plant.
The City of West Kelowna now has an additional two years, until March 2022, to construct the plant.
Two years ago, Fuhr announced federal support for water infrastructure in the Central Okanagan. Eligible community projects received 50 per cent of project costs under the Clean Water Wastewater Fund (CWWF) from the government of Canada.
The remaining costs were covered by the provincial government (33 per cent) and the municipality (17 per cent).
“This new funding model represented significant fiscal relief to municipalities who were trying to deliver on necessary community water projects,” said Fuhr.
“In the case of the Rose Valley Water Treatment Plant project, West Kelowna had run into a number of logistical difficulties in meeting the timelines required by the CWWF.”
Complications included historical flooding in 2017 and 2018, which occupied city resources. The location and purchase of non-Crown land for the new plant were delayed with a looming deadline.
West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom. (Michael Rodriguez – Kelowna Capital News)
“We saw our elected officials go above and beyond for us. It has been truly amazing,” said West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom.
“Without a doubt in my mind, this project would be years away, if not completely out of reach for West Kelowna, without the support of the federal and provincial governments.”
Despite West Kelowna being out of his riding, Fuhr said people were reaching out to him and his party to get something done.
“I care about the entire Thompson-Okanagan,” he said. “This community is very interconnected and all of it matters to me.”
Upon the natural disasters in 2017 and 2018, Fuhr reached out to his colleagues and was able to get an extra year for all municipalities under the CWWF.
Fuhr said that still wasn’t enough for West Kelowna due to the additional challenge of land acquisition that the others didn’t have.
“When you get land that’s going to change the design of the system and a whole bunch of other things trickle down from that,” he said. “It just made it impossible for them to meet the timeline.”
Approached by former mayor Doug Findlater, current Mayor Milsom and MLA Ben Stewart, Fuhr felt the need from the community.
“I think this is one of the biggest infrastructure projects this city has ever undertaken,” he said. “I said I’d do it and I took it on as if it were my own.”
MP for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola Dan Albas. (Michael Rodriguez – Kelowna Capital News)
MP Dan Albas, Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, said he is happy this is getting done despite the across-the-lake representative being the one to get the praise.
“When there were unexpected difficulties in building the original plan, they had to shift. That included coming to myself to see how we could engage meaningfully with the government,” said Albas.
“(The mayor and city council) came forward with absolutely reasonable requests because either they were going to be forced to accelerate the program, which would have increased costs, or they would have missed out on grant funding.
“When it’s about getting things done that are good for my folks, I don’t care who gets the credit. It’s about the community’s needs being met. I welcome this today because it’s a public commitment and there’s no walking away from it.”