Budget chill freezes sewer line

The Alberta government’s tightening of funding faucets is expected to delay completion of a much-needed regional sewer line between Olds and Red Deer.

The Alberta government’s tightening of funding faucets is expected to delay completion of a much-needed regional sewer line between Olds and Red Deer.

The province’s changing economic fortunes means the 83-km line will likely be completed in 2013-2014, about two years behind schedule.

It was hoped the $107 million cost of the line could be divided up roughly into thirds, but the province has signalled to communities involved in the project not to expect the entire $35 million second instalment, Dale Withage, chief administrative officer South Red Deer Regional Wastewater Commission, said on Friday.

The commission is now looking for ways to break up the project into smaller components or spread funding over a longer period to keep the project moving ahead as efficiently as possible.

Withage said the commission may stretch the cost of a lift station over a couple of funding cycles, rather than asking for all the money up front. Also, pipeline could be put in the ground, later adding other components needed to move the sewage down the line.

“We’re looking at those kinds of things to see how feasible it is to move things around. We’re throwing around all these different options.

“We’re going to have to come up with something less, that’s for sure.”

The commission is also concerned that the province has not laid out a clear funding timeline or how much funding will be coming in the next round of announcements.

Commission members don’t want to spend a lot of time carefully restructuring the next phase only to be told that further cuts are needed.

However, there is only so much the project can be delayed. Both Innisfail and Olds are struggling to treat their sewage, he said.

“(The treatment plants) reached the end of their life a few years ago. They’re definitely under the gun.”

Work is well underway to install 25 km of pipeline between Innisfail and Penhold. A $5-million lift station to move the sewage down the line will be tendered next year and it is hoped the entire project can be completed by the end of next year or early 2011.

Land acquisition for Phase 2, a line from Penhold to Red Deer’s wastewater treatment plant, has already begun. The commission also plans to ask the province for approval to start land acquisition for the third phase, the line from Innisfail to Olds.

The Olds-to-Red Deer line comprises the southern leg of a major provincially-endorsed effort to regionalize wastewater treatment in Central Alberta.

A northern leg would extend to the Lacombe area and a western leg would go to Sylvan Lake. Funding has not yet been announced for the other legs.

The total cost of the project has been estimated from $285 million to as high as $395 million.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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