Work on the Emerald pump station is set to get underway after council awarded a contract in the amount of $1,069,391 to Carver Construction Ltd., at its March 20 meeting.
Carver's bid was the lowest of six.
Work on the Emerald water system is being done in two phases, with the pump station upgrades being part of Phase 2.
Phase 1 involves the construction of a new UV Station near the Emerald Reservoir (about 80-per-cent complete).
Phase 2 of the project is to rehabilitate the existing pump station at Emerald Park. Work includes moving wellheads and electronic equipment above ground, as well as construction of new public washrooms.
"We plan to have the majority of the construction, commissioning (and) testing done for October, and it will be connected to the rest of the system, which is the Phase 1 UV station," said capital projects manager Tammy Shore in a presentation to council.
The project became a priority in 2015, when all three wells in the Emerald system were determined to be both Groundwater Under Direct Influence of surface water and Groundwater at Risk of Pathogens.
Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) requested that the RMOW maintain a much higher chlorine residual in Emerald until the UV station could be implemented.
The RMOW has been doing regular measurements on the distribution system, with no reports of any infections.
"They haven't found any problems. They're consistently meeting the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines, and then of course we do testing throughout the entire system, and our results are consistent with meeting the national guidelines," Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said.
Though the 2016 Drinking Water Report was not presented on schedule (VCH requires them to be published by June 30 each year) due to turnover at the utilities group manager position, VCH said it has been in constant communication with the RMOW and has not penalized the municipality for late reporting.
The 2016 drinking water report can be found at www.whistler.ca/drinkingwater.
While the reports are highly technical, Wilhelm-Morden said the community can learn more about Whistler's water during Drinking Water Week in May.
The total project cost for the Emerald water project (2016 to 2019) is $3,752,000, but a federal/provincial Clean Water and Wastewater Fund grant of $2,085,810 ($1,256,512 from the feds, $829,298 from the province) will leave the RMOW's total share of the costs at $1.67 million.
A tender issued in October 2017 found costs to be about $700,000 higher than the original engineer's estimate of $740,000, causing the original tender to be cancelled and the project re-scoped and re-tendered.
EDGEWATER FLOOD EXEMPTION DEFERRED
A request from the owners of what is commonly known as the Edgewater Lodge property was deferred at the March 20 council meeting.
The owners hope to construct a flood control training berm within the road allowance at Wedge Park as part of their development plans, which include five new buildings and a pavilion for residential and indoor recreation uses.
The development of the lands is not subject to development permit approval, though provincial Riparian Area Regulations apply.
Some councillors voiced concerns about potential impacts to the Whistler Secondary School lands, and on the ecosystem surrounding Wedge Park.
"I would rather defer this motion until we can get a report back that says what the alternatives are, so that we can see if the alternatives are environmentally worse than what is proposed here, or if they might be better," said Coun. Sue Maxwell.
The only other option available to the developer is to add six metres of fill and build on top of it, staff noted.
"There is an option to fill the entire site, and so I guess another part is the visual quality, which hasn't been talked about, which is to have a six-metre-high site with buildings on top," said Chief Administrative Officer Mike Furey.
Maxwell said she believed the visual impacts could be mitigated through landscaping.
"I am more concerned about the environmental impacts," she said.
Councillors Maxwell, Jen Ford, Jack Crompton and Cathy Jewett voted in favour of the deferment, with Steve Anderson and John Grills opposed.
WHISTLER COUNCIL TO GET CRASH COURSE ON SPECULATION TAX
While Whistler is exempt from the B.C. government's "speculation tax"—which aims to target property speculators by taxing empty homes—the RMOW is not ready to take a position just yet.
Thomas Davidoff, an associate professor with UBC's Sauder School of Business, will present to Whistler's Committee of the Whole on April 10.
"Certainly Whistler is going to be taking a position on this speculation tax, and we're going to start by educating ourselves," Wilhelm-Morden said.
"We just don't know the ramifications of being subject to this tax or not being subject to the tax."
Asked why Whistler was given an exemption, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Finance said that as a resort municipality, Whistler is not considered a major urban centre.
"As such, the speculation tax is not the right tool for that community," the spokesperson said.
Speaking from a personal viewpoint, Wilhelm-Morden said she's thankful for the exemption, but she's not sure the tax is going to accomplish what the government wants it to.
"We have a significant amount of second-home owners in this community, and we've had them for many, many years," the mayor said. "I think the people who invest in real estate here in Whistler as second, third or fourth homes, do it because they use their properties. They're not doing it for strictly investment purposes the way we see in the Lower Mainland, so it's the wrong target in my opinion."
EARTH HOUR PARTICIPATION DECLINING
For the first time in 10 years, B.C. saw an increase in energy use during the annual Earth Hour event on Saturday, March 24.
According to BC Hydro, electricity use across B.C. during Earth Hour (8:30 to 9:30 p.m.) rose 0.2 per cent province-wide compared to the same hour a week earlier on Saturday, March 17.
While the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island regions saw increases of 0.5 and 0.6 per cent, respectively, the Southern Interior and Northern Interior regions saw no change in energy use.
BC Hydro no longer tracks Earth Hour energy usage in individual communities, but customers can track their usage by logging into their MyHydro accounts.
While interest in Earth Hour seems to be declining, Wilhelm-Morden said she still thinks it's a worthwhile initiative.
"I know that the (World Wildlife Fund) has gotten some comments and criticisms about Earth Hour and that it doesn't really accomplish anything, but I tend to disagree," she said.
"I think it's just got such a potential for educating families, and kids in particular, about energy use, so I still think it's a good idea."