Birchcliff seeking provincial funding to proceed with sewer system

A sewage collection system is the top priority for Summer Village of Birchcliff councillors.

A sewage collection system is the top priority for Summer Village of Birchcliff councillors.

They’ve received strong support from their taxpayers and have had detailed engineering design work completed for the project, a system that would tie into the regional sewage line which runs past their entrance.

Tender documents for the $5.2 million project are ready. Now the summer village is awaiting funding approval from the provincial government.

“We’re hoping for a funding indication in 2012 so we can go ahead,” said Councillor Thom Jewell during an interview last week. “Our real drive is getting funds in place.”

He’s hopeful. Meeting with government officials in Edmonton, he said they’ve been “very supportive verbally” and “good at spending time with us”.

An estimate of costs for the project indicates the forcemain at about $2.7 million, another $500,400 for miscellaneous items such as clearing, seeding, etc. and service connections totalling $1.99 million. Ratepayers would be responsible for costs of connecting their properties to the summer village sewage line.

The internal system includes a forcemain of approximately 6.4 kilometres to service 154 lots with a permanent population of about 125 and a seasonal population of about 212 which peaks at about 366 people when camp and cabin visitors are counted during the summer.

A lift station at the corner of Range Road 1-4 and Birchcliff Road, which would connect the summer village’s system to the regional line, has been tendered by Sylvan Lake Regional Wastewater Commission, but the contract has not yet been let, Jewell added. Members of the commission include the five summer villages around the lake, the Town of Sylvan Lake and Lacombe and Red Deer counties.

“It needs to be in, in time,” he said. The lift station will be constructed and operational in the next ten to 12 months, Jewell predicted.

The wastewater commission has also made upgrades to the Town of Sylvan Lake lagoon to expand its capacity to handle effluent from about 20,000 people.

Jarvis Bay and Norglenwold residents are already hooked in to wastewater systems which use Sylvan Lake’s lagoons. Following Birchcliff, the summer villages of Sunbreaker Cove and Half Moon Bay plan to connect to the regional system.

“All the summer villages are involved in planning and installing municipal sewer systems,” said Jewell. “We’re the real drivers of the regional system.”

The summer villages manage 37 per cent of the lakeshore, while the Town of Sylvan Lake has nine per cent. There’s also Birchcliff seeking provincial funding to proceed with sewer system growth in their communities with cabins being transformed into year round homes.

Two other water related items are also high on the summer village’s priority lists.

That, Jewell said, is because the summer villages are committed to maintaining the quality of the lake. With a population of 80,000 projected in the watershed, actions being taken now will help mitigate future problems.

“We’re heavily involved in cumulative impact assessments to support sustainable future growth in the watershed,” he said. Another project is underway through the Sylvan Lake Regional Water Commission which includes the same partners as the wastewater commission.

A regional water feasibility study has recently been undertaken to determine whether water can continue to be taken from aquifers to support the growing population or whether water needs to be taken from the Red Deer River.

Also on the summer village’s priority list is the lake water level.

Currently at an all time high, Jewell said increased water flow into the lake is due to higher than normal rainfall and more and more development within the watershed. This is not a natural phenomenon, he said.

It’s causing severe erosion which endangers the lake ecosystem and damages property around the lake.

The only outflow from the lake is owned and managed by Alberta Environment, but he questions how well it’s managed. “The velocity through the channels is not high enough to get the capacity out,” Jewell said. “We need two feet out of the lake.” But it would take a year to get just eight inches out through the culverts currently installed south of the outflow creek.

“There needs to be maintenance of the channel down to the lagoon.”

The other option to deal with damage done by the high lake level is to put boulders along the 23.3 miles of shoreline around the entire lake at a cost of over $24.6 million, he estimated. However this would cause extreme damage to fish habitat and a fundamental change to the lake ecosystem.

The summer village’s proposal is to install a weir and dredge the man-made drainage channel from the lake to the Sylvan Lake sewage outlet channel at a cost of about $200,000, approximately 1.5 per cent of the cost of “trying to manage the symptom versus manage the problem”.