Cash crunch hits sewage line

Completion of an Olds-to-Red Deer regional sewage line may be delayed because of the province’s tight finances.

Completion of an Olds-to-Red Deer regional sewage line may be delayed because of the province’s tight finances.

“At the moment, it’s no surprise that the province is in some challenging times with the funding for everything. And we’re not immune to that,” said Dave Hoar, Red Deer County’s representative on the South Red Deer Regional Wastewater Commission.

“They have given an indication that while they support our program, cash flow will be an issue.”

A number of alternatives were put on the table at a recent meeting with provincial officials.

One option is for municipalities to pick up a bigger share of the project. The provincial government had pledged to cover 90 per cent of the line’s estimated $135-million price tag.

Another way to reduce the immediate financial burden on the province at a time of budget deficits is to extend the construction schedule for the project, which was to see the final link to Red Deer completed in 2015.

“The commission took the stance at the last board meeting that certainly our preferred route was to maintain the 90/10 funding and extend the time frame as our first choice,” said Hoar.

That message has been sent to the province and municipalities are waiting for a response.

Hoar said how long the project will be extended is an open question.

“Really at this point we have no idea. It’s still up in the air for negotiations. We might be able to make the end of 2015, or it might be a number of years beyond that.”

While a delay is not welcome, its impact on communities along the line will not be critical.

The final pieces of the project would have seen an older line from Springbrook to Red Deer replaced with a higher-capacity line.

Other connections in Red Deer to its sewage plant are also planned.

“The only community with really an emergency situation with regard to sewage disposal is Olds.”

Some of Olds sewage can be still be taken using existing pipelines.

“That takes the immediate short-term pressure off (Olds),” he said. “If the total line completion is a bit late it’s not really an emergency situation for Central Alberta.”

First estimated at $107 million in 2007, the estimated cost of the 90-km line has risen by about $28 million due to inflation and line route changes that added 16 km.

Alberta Transportation spokesman John Lear said the application for additional funding to complete the project is under review.

“We need to look at a bunch of factors. It’s quite a complex and multi-year project so they’re going to take the time to look at it carefully.

“But no final decisions have been made at this point.”