Hydro mum on details of agreement with city on possible use of Site C reservoir

BC Hydro is not commenting on the tentative deal reportedly struck with the City of Fort St. John to use a future Site C reservoir as a new water supply source.

When contacted about the story, which surfaced at City Hall Tuesday afternoon, Hydro spokesman Dave Conway would only say details of the agreement are confidential.

“If it’s a specific detail related to our agreement with the city, the one that we have an agreement in principle on, we’re no releasing details, because we’re working on a signed legal agreement,” Conway said.

“Until we have a signed legal agreement, any details about an agreement with the City of fort St. John are confidential by mutual agreement.”

The city and Hydro have been negotiating for years on an agreement that would help offset the impacts construction of the dam would have on the city, from an influx of workers, traffic, and other strains on city services.

City keeping possible use of a reservoir in its ‘back pocket’

At Tuesday’s council meeting Fort St. John City Manager Dianne Hunter said using a possible Site C reservoir as a new water source for the city is just one of many options its exploring.

“The arrangement with Hydro was always to have that in our back pocket,” Hunter said.

“Whether or not we ever utilize it, and whether it’s a good alternative for the city remains to be seen. But, we have certainly ensured that we have the opportunity to explore that option if we need it down the road.”

Hunter said securing an adequate new source of water is going to be a major consideration for the city moving forward as industrial development continues to drive its growth.

The city, which grew 4.7 per cent in 2014, already draws its water from the Peace River through a series of groundwater wells, but a recent 50 year growth report warns the city will experience a severe shortfall without upgrades or a new water source in place by 2018.

Hunter confirmed the city may once again draw on water from Charlie Lake, however, the city’s preferred choice remains using subsurface water, as the city’s current water treatment plant is not built to process surface water from lakes or rivers.

“If we moved to surface water such as Charlie Lake or a reservoir, then we’re in a whole other treatment facility situation,” she said.

“We’re going to look long and hard at aquifers and wells before we go to surface water. We would also look at expanding our pumping capacity and the capacity of our pipes up to the treatment facility before we went to another source of water as well.”

The city has applied for a $105,000 grant from the federal gas tax grant program to fund the development of a water supply master plan, which would key in on demand management opportunities along with supply source needs.

“That plan will inform us of strategies,” said Hunter.

“I suspect we’ll be looking at a whole array of options for the community.”