Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Truth is Unpalatable to Some

How interesting that Gyula Kiss' comments about "staff directing" the Master Water Plan created a fuss.
Is the truth unpalatable?   to bureaucracy?  to some GVAC directors? 

The June 19th blog story "GVAC Fiasco..." includes an article written by Morning Star reporter Rolke to which GVAC director and Coldstream councillor Gyula Kiss has replied.

Here it is:

"It is surprising that my comments  “Who is directing it (the MWP)? It looks like staff is directing it.” created so much controversy. Does anyone disagree with that statement?
Staff was hired to direct the MWP. That's what they are getting paid for. Staff write terms of references to hire consultants, staff gather information and provide it to politicians, they are the ones who make recommendations etc. Consultants are the extension of staff and staff is responsible for the accuracy and completeness of the consultants information. Politicians have to make decisions based on the information and recommendations staff provide to them
However, since politicians have to make decisions based on that information it must be complete, accurate, factual, up to date, non-selective and unbiased. Withholding pertinent information, whether it is due to lack of knowledge or otherwise, is not tolerable. This is where we have our differences.
In the 2002 MWP Okanagan Lake was omitted as a water supply source. Inquiring minds were told that the reason for this omission was due to lack of water licenses on Okanagan Lake. This was true as far as it went. The fact that GVW had ample water licenses on tributaries to Okanagan Lake and that the Water Act had provisions that would allow transfer of Point of Diversion (POD) of existing water licenses was not provided by neither the consultants nor staff. Had this information been provided and acted upon the direction and cost of the MWP could have been a lot different.
Similarly, staff reported that there was insufficient water license capacity in Kalamalka Lake. The possible transfer of POD from Deer Creek/Coldstream Creek was again not revealed to the politicians. Knowledge of that possibility could have changed decisions.
In fact, the possibility of transferring POD from Duteau Creek to Kalamalka Lake was never mentioned. The Water act allows minor transfers (up to 10 cubic meters per second) between watersheds.
If any of those facts were considered by staff and the political reps Duteau Creek would never have needed altering. It could have been reassigned to raw agriculture water only as it used to be prior to 1970.
IHA was blamed for the huge expenditure in a very short time. IHA clarified their position (this blog's June 27th story "Interior Health Damns Duteau..." recently (the presentation was released from in-camera to general information). Their position was that GVWU develop a plan with timelines for their approval. How we do it is our choice. If they do not like it they will make suggestions. We opted for the most expensive, most complicated plan, leaving us with no room to negotiate.
There are many other examples I could list. I am not blaming the current staff for all of the problems. However, we must work together to see how we can remedy the existing situation. We are now aware of previous information deficiencies, provided in the preparation of the MWP. Excessive water rates are the issue. The politicians need to step into their primary role, which is to ensure that the tax payers are represented first and foremost, while balancing their secondary role which is to maintain a good working relationship with staff at the RDNO. Whatever plan we develop we must convince the public to approve funding for it.
Most people resent the fact that they pay huge water bills even with low usage. They also face stringent restrictions on when and how they can use their water while they watch big guns spray the same expensive water on hay fields and other agricultural crops at any time, any day  and pay pittance for it. That resentment is not going to improve with adding future expensive treatment to the mixed domestic/agriculture water. This situation would remain a constant point of discontent for the domestic customers as their rates keep climbing."

A closing comment from Mr. Kiss' blog:  

 "One has to ask why there is no political will to revisit the plan in light of the ridiculous rates we must pay to support this Duteau based plan ( before filtration costs), in comparison to our neighbours (Kelowna, Penticton). Either we are lousy managers of the utility, or we chose the wrong source (or perhaps both). I can understand the resistance on staff's part to support another look at all the options as it makes them look incompetent, but I can't understand the political resistance to trying to get me, the taxpayer, the best water at the best rates. Another committee advised by the same staff is not the way to get to the right solution" 

"Unpalatable?  I like anything that tastes good," affirms Kia.


Monday, June 29, 2015

It Would Otherwise Be Funny

...if it weren't so sad.

Yesterday's (June 28th, 2015) blog entry quoted Greater Vernon Water manager Zee Marcolin saying that Stage One water restrictions may be in force within a week.

Her comment that Stage One's goal to achieve a 10 per cent reduction in water consumption rang alarm bells for more than one water user.

But one user--quick with his calculator--provided the most poignant comment:

"Assuming all customers take heed of Ms. Marcolin's advice
to cut back water use, we will have a
water saving of 578,165 cubic meters (578.2 ML).

The loss of revenue associated with such savings would be $816,133 or $33.55 per household.

 Just to cover that revenue loss
in 2015 the base fees
will have to be increased by
$33.55 per household (~7.8% increase)."

The "GVW story" changes so frequently...people are shaking their heads.
At last week's Waterwise meeting at the Library, Ms. Marcolin said the Duteau reservoirs had been low due to early snowmelt this year but nowhere near normal due to accumulated spring rains and there was no immediate need for increased restrictions.  The argument to raise the height of Aberdeen Dam was to increase the storage capacity for snowmelt and rainfall.  She indicated that her goal was to build "safety factors" into the system, both for supply and delivery.

"I'll take the green lawn if I have to pay $33.55 more," attests Kia.


If only the golf business could do that...as revenue decreases, increase the green fees for each person so that the same revenue accrues as previously.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

But Where are the Reservoir Level Graphs?

Call us suspicious.
Or whatever.

Today's story in the Morning Star, entitled "Water restrictions may evolve" (Rolke) had a few people commenting this morning on the lack of graphs.

"Where are the graphs that show how low the water reservoirs are this spring...early summer?" said one.
Another intoned:  "It seems last year -- a wetter spring than this year -- graphics appeared in the newspaper by, what, April or May?"

Good point.

Has anyone seen updated reservoir storage graphs?  (Source: internet)

"Or maybe, despite this year's heat arriving weeks earlier than normal, and minimal snowpack immediately adjacent to the valley bottom...just maybe there have been huge rain events on the Aberdeen plateau," the individual concluded.

Either way, GVW graphs are missing and here it is almost July 1st.
But you can bet GVW has compiled the reservoir data.
Just not issued it.

The news story:

"Greater Vernon residents are being urged to ease off the taps.  The Regional District of North Okanagan is preparing to shift from normal water restrictions to stage one regulations to conserve the water resource for the months to come.

'If it happens, it will be this week or the week after,' said Zee Marcolin, water utility manager.

Presently, residents with odd numbered addresses can water Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays while those with even numbered addresses can irrigate Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays from 6 to 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. until midnight.  People can use drip irrigation at any time of the day.

Under stage one, the odd-even schedule continues for manual sprinklers but drip-irrigation is restricted to 7 to 10 p.m.

The primary difference between the stages is RDNO moves towards enhanced enforcement with stage one.

'We hope people will pay attention to their water use,' said Jennifer Miles, RDNO's water sustainability co-ordinator.  The goal with stage one is to reduce water use by 10 per cent and educate people to be more water wise.'

Marcolin insists there is currently sufficient water in reservoirs but it's important to take action now because an evolving climate could put pressure on the system. 

'We need to have enough in the reservoirs going into next year because if it's dry next year, there will be a problem,' she said.

'Restrictions are all about planning for the future'."

"No comment," sniffs Kia.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Interior Health Damns Duteau as Domestic Water Source

Edit:  June 28/15.  A big thanks to a Commenter  who provided
 a link to Mike Stamhuis' presentation (referred to in the blog article).

Damns...with an "n".
Not dams, as in erecting a barrier to water's normal flow.

Who would've thought that Interior Health would provide all the information necessary to conclusively prove that GVW's--and three consultants'--choice of Duteau Creek as a domestic water source was sheer folly.

Who indeed?

The grassroots group Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan discovered a new ally:  the 7-page report issued by Interior Health to Greater Vernon Advisory Committee members.  The report was at Agenda stage listed as In Camera; then it was correctly removed from In Camera.

  • Remember that Duteau Creek was initially an irrigation source before the Duteau Creek Water Treatment Plant was built, and
  • Consider that Kelowna's domestic customers mostly receive their water from Okanagan Lake, at just over one-third the costs that North Okanagan customers pay GVW for water.
A few points of folly that jump out:    
Potable water is a regulatory requirement of any water supplier...for domestic customers.  It must be "safe to drink and fit for domestic purposes without further treatment.”  The Ministry of Health's microbiological objectives for Surface Water Supplies provide the minimum expectations; it is up to the water supplier to determine how to meet (or exceed) the minimum expectations.  Then the water supplier and Interior Health determine (by) when those minimum expectations will be met. 

Protozoa are organisms that can cause illness.  The IHA report notes that "there is a level of endemic illness occurring". . 

Figure 7 of the report provides Medical Services Plan statistics of the weekly level of intestinal infectious diseases in the Cariboo/Thompson region of the Kamloops area.

In November of 2012, the Ministry of Health indicated that “Existing water supply systems may have some appreciable risk for certain parameters without treatment in place. In such cases, it is acceptable from a public health perspective for water supply systems to present drinking water officers with a continuous improvement plan that addresses implementing treatment for these parameters within a reasonable time period.”

To meet treatment objectives, two treatment processes are preferred to address the Ministry's requirement for continuous improvement to reduce or deactive viruses, reduce or deactive Giardia (also known as Beaver Fever) and Cryptosporidium, low Turbidity thresholds (to prevent organic matter from "burning out" any chlorination process too soon), and NO detectable E.coli.

But what if the raw water supply is routinely poor?
Interior Health reports that:  "chlorination or U.V. light usually require a minimum raw water quality and chlorine set duration of time."   And that's when IHA's Multiple Barrier Approach is required.

It's because of Duteau Creek's historical and frequently high turbidity levels...that the Multiple Barrier Approach of combining filtration with UV or chlorination is required to provide the minimum raw water quality Interior Health requires.  Is it any wonder that Kelowna's water system received a filtration deferral?  Nope.  Okanagan Lake has far fewer turbidity issues, and likely of shorter duration when turbidity does occur!

I'm frankly surprised that Interior Health--let alone Greater Vernon Water--hasn't, in all these years, made an(y) effort to minimize (exclude) contamination risks, where possible.  In a thinly-veiled effort to advance the unfunded master water plan project of raising the Duteau Creek dam to this year, GVW recently whined about the risk of mud-boggers at the water source.  And the threat to valleybottom residences and communities if mud-boggers caused the dam to deteriorate and fail.

It wasn't lost on thinking people that raising the dam by four metres was--during the borrowing vote scant months earlier--originally scheduled for seven years from now.  The question needs to be asked of GVW:  had the borrowing referendum been approved, would 2022 still be the year to raise the dam height?  Maybe GVW had an unreported solution to mud-boggers "waiting in the wings"?

The stroke of a Provincial pen in Victoria can entirely eliminate the "stakeholder" class of "the public recreationist" at Duteau Creek...yet IHA and GVW seem to have lost the "seat of government" phone number.

But come on folks!  Mud-boggers?  Campers at the shoreline of our water source?  Really?  A risk even more critical is cattle.  Mike Stamhuis--back in 2002 or 2003--as Manager of the now-defunct/ renamed North Okanagan Water Authority (NOWA) made a distinguished (yes, distinguished) presentation to our province's Legislative Assembly.  While I thought I had bookmarked the document at the time, I can't find it today.  It resides somewhere within Hansard.  EDIT:  The Hansard document is hereMike Stamhuis' presentation begins at page 1647.

Mike Stamhuis explained the severe risk to public health of cattle grazing adjacent to--and pooping in-- drinking water sources, especially the contamination caused by calves.  Perhaps a cattle lobby was instrumental in his "transfer"...perhaps not.  The facts remain.  Extreme public health danger exists despite some efforts having been made to keep cattle out of the water source.  Mud-boggers, cattle, public camping.  No wonder IHA is adamant that Duteau be filtered!  

The previous paragraphs' diatribe leads to IHA's statement about:  - Total coliforms – group of bacteria used to indicate of potential presence of fecal contamination • 0 - E. coli – bacteria species present only in humans and other warm-blooded animals.

IHA has provided Greater Vernon Water, through GVAC, with conditions that must be met to defer/exclude filtration:  a minimum of two forms of disinfection, "very low levels" of E.coli detected in treated water samples, average turbidity (less than 1) cannot exceed 5 NTU more than twice a year and, finally, a watershed control program is maintained to minimize the risk of fecal contamination.

Hopefully, the watershed control program is what would eliminate the risks posed by mud-boggers, cattle and public camping.

Thanks to the Interior Health report, the proof is there.

Duteau Creek should never have become Greater Vernon's second water source.
Now, with the IHA requirement for GVW to manage risks, it's still proof that Okanagan Lake would have been the best choice.

"The Interior Health report could actually become a new friend," offers Kia.

Let's hope GVAC directors know how to read between the lines. 
All of them.
Not just two.


The Plant From Hell

Yes, there are pressing issues in the North Okanagan.
Water, for one.
Over-governance for another.

But after reading "The Plant that's eating B.C." in the June 22, 2015 issue of Maclean's Magazine, it's time to add Japanese (and its three mutant hybrids) Knotweed to RDNO's Noxious Weeds Program.


Think this is just a gardener's caution?

Reports of being unable to secure a mortgage or house insurance are apparently not scare tactics.
They're reality.

The plant has crawled under 4-lane highways and weakened bridge infrastructure.

Wikipedia's report that it's one of the world's most invasive species is frankly frightening.

"Makes mountain pine beetle sound like a cherished pet by comparison," offers Kia.

Holy crap, as the saying goes!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Law of INTENDED Consequences?

Since RDNO head David Sewell's graphic-heavy Powerpoint production for GVAC directors was presented to them, all seven pages of it, it resembles RDNO's unwritten Law of Intended Consequences...revenue.

There's a much simpler version of the truth that all North Okanagan water customers can understand.
And one that doesn't pull the wool over directors' untrained eyes.

And this document's author, Terry Mooney of the Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan, provides a succinct and sincere view from our position...users.
The taxpayers.

Here it is.
Read it and weep.

It doesn't take a high IQ to see its logic.
All without GVW's typical smoke and mirrors.

"My research into the behaviour of Electrical and Water Utilities and their User Bases has led to the formation of the above, which, when adapted to our water situation, helps to explain the conundrum that GVW and its user base finds itself."

Conundrum indeed.
Because Greater Vernon Advisory directors need to, first and foremost, be responsive to their electorate.  And taxpayers have frankly had enough.

"It's the talk of the town," says Kia.

And no longer in whispers either. 


Aerial Spraying

Noticed the helicopter traversing north of the clubhouse on Wednesday above the Coldstream Ranch's grazing lands.
Probably 5 times, back and forth, grid-like.

Then the whir of blades in the still air at 5 a.m. Thursday morning likely woke up everyone in the valley.
It was too hot by 11 a.m. to sit outdoors but if that helicopter swept the valley once, he did it 100 times, again in a grid-like pattern, west to east, and circling back near west Coldstream.
It ended around noon today.

Spray passes above the clubhouse and then over the ranch's grazing lands.

Seeing the boom arms beneath, likely fed from an interior tank, "He's spraying something" was heard.

People didn't recall a recent notification in the newspaper of spraying something.

And a decidedly ahem comment from an individual had my eyebrows arching furiously...I was directed to this website about chemtrails

"Definitely ahem," alerts Kia adding, "the choppers were probably dispersing a harmless-to-humans spray for Spruce Budworm." 

Pardon the poor camera zoom, but is this the beginning of Spruce Budworm attacking trees on the north slope across from Highlands Golf?

The reddish colour isn't obvious in this poor photo, but there are definitely reddish looking trees around that selective logging.

"Woke me up at 5 a.m. too," complains Kia.

Whatever it was, let's hope it worked.


Distinguished Guests Welcomed

The score was tied after 9 holes on Wednesday.
But the second round clinched it for the ladies.

Highlands Golf was delighted to welcome some great folks from Predator Ridge: (Left to right) MacKenzie Barrie, AJ Eathorne, Sean Burke and Ryan Dubetz.

AJ Eathorne is the three-time British Columbia Ladies Amateur champion and winner of the Canadian Ladies Amateur Championship (1997). AJ is Ladies Golf Academy instructor and Sean is Assistant Pro at Predator Ridge.

(left to right)  MacKenzie, AJ Eathorne, Ryan and Sean

AJ's program at Predator Ridge is called "Swing Like a Girl".

The guys should've paid attention, losing by one stroke after 18 holes.

Predator's Golf Academy website is here.

"It's not male bashing," grins Kia, adding "it's girl bonding."


Monday, June 22, 2015

You'd Think They Would Make a Phone Call

...to tell you what's going on.

And why they're referencing your company in a change to the Official Community Plan.

Bureaucrats only cater to their community's council.
By extension, then, they don't give a tinker's damn about a business in their community.

Imagine my surprise when I looked at the Agenda for Coldstream's council meeting, scheduled for today, and clicked on the "Final Revisions to Draft Official Community Plan".  Then, scrolling down to read what final revisions the bureaucrats were asking council to peruse, I almost fell off my chair as I read my company's name listed on the following excerpt from page 3 (of 8):

"6.7 Recreation Commercial
6.7.2  The policy that designated the existing Recreation Commercial site (Highlands Golf) a development permit area is deleted.  As written, the policy did not actually do what it intended.

The Policy has been replaced to state that this and future Recreation Commercial sites should be designated as a development permit area for environmental and form and character reasons.  If Council were to act on the policy recommendation it will occur as a future action."


The policy didn't do what it intended?
What was the intent that they didn't achieve?

A simple look at historical records would prove that Highlands Golf had a Development Permit (a relatively long process conducted through Fred Leavitt at NORD), environmental requirements (a Registered Professional Biologist toured through the entire property...I forget her name...with questions asked and answered whether there was any seasonal water (there was none in my ~40 year history as owner), whether certain animals/lizards/frogs occurred in various areas (nothing smaller than coyotes and deer, with the exception of the odd bullsnake).  On form and character, an architect was retained for the clubhouse plans (just a renovation from the previous building).  I decided on a white stucco finish that aptly suited the desert environment. 

And, while the link to Coldstream's Zoning Map is--for some reason--today not provided in the Agenda, I did in fact see the zoning map during the first draft of the plan.
And guess what?

It showed my C-5 zoned Commercial Recreation property as R-2 !


I wouldn't mind being Commercial and charged only R-2 property taxes (residential).
But being charged Commercial/Business property taxes and a draft community zoning map showing the property as Residential R-2 will fly as far as an elephant, Mr. Bureaucrat.

 "I predict he'll be Zero-for-Two after this," grins Kia, adding "if including the private fire hydrant 'report' he conducted."

Would it have taken more than a few minutes to phone me and explain what Coldstream is supposedly intending with this OCP change (that's headed Final).


Friday, June 19, 2015

GVAC Fiasco Initiates New Press Release

(Noted from a Comment:  "The RDNO board meeting Wednesday was not held a day before the regular GVAC meeting as there was no regular GVAC meeting scheduled for Thursday June 18. GVAC regular meetings are the first Thursday of the month.")

Convenient indeed for GVW bureaucrats and the majority of GVAC officials that today's Morning Star story omitted reference to a Motion on the floor during the June 11th meeting.   Misplaced in the Agenda by GVAC chair Cunningham, it was quickly defeated when it eventually resurfaced.

Without debate!

First, the newspaper story:

"Master water plan making waves, Richard Rolke

Regional District of North Okanagan officials are trying to calm turbulent waters.

During Wednesday's board meeting (blog: which preceded by one day the regular GVAC meeting), chief administrative officer David Sewell clarified his views on the review of the Greater Vernon master water plan. 

"I don't want the impression that directors are being led by staff," said Sewell.

On June 11, the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee members considered 21 assumptions (blog note:  pages 3 of 6 here) that impact the master water plan. 

During that discussion, GVAC director Gyula Kiss stated "Who is directing it?  It looks like staff is directing it."

Sewell insisted that he is not singling out any specific politician but says that while staff provides advice, elected officials will determine the direction of the master water plan.

"We (staff) have a role and I want the public to be cognizant that those roles are in place," he said.

Director Catherine Lord expressed concern that Kiss' comments could undermine the ability to address Greater Vernon's long-term water system.

"We need to make sure everyone is on board because if the impression of this is it's run by staff, there will be a (public) backlash," she said.

Similar views also came from director Juliette Cunningham, who is GVAC chairperson.

"We can't undermine staff as we work through the process," she said, adding that the suggestion that a final plan outcome has been determined is wrong.

"We don't know what we will do, if we will ask for an independent review."

Kiss stands by his comments.

"Is staff not directing the process?" he said. "Staff provides advice and those who do not want to think for themselves accept that advice.  I question the advice because that's what electors want me to do."

Kiss added that an overwhelming majority of voters opposed borrowing $70 million for the master water plan in November's referendum.

"The taxpayers pay for staff and they have a right to request information and I am a representative for taxpayers."

GVAC Directors obviously haven't read this...

 "Boss Sewell said 'want' in each of two sentences," offers Kia, adding "it's what the public 'wants' that'll prevail."

Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan 
Press Release (submitted via email)

The Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan are requesting that our political representatives go back to the "drawing board" and to make needed changes in the Terms of Reference (page 7 to 12 here) of the Water Plan Review crafted on June 10th and 11th.  

The Review is not the "fresh new look" requested by Citizens for Change and demanded by the referendum defeat last Fall.  The review proposed by GVAC last week has serious flaws in the composition of the participants, and in the Terms of Reference for the Stakeholders Advisory Committee.

In short:

  • the domestic water customer who is most affected by the current high water costs is under-represented;
  • persons with relevant expertise and experience are prevented from participating,
  • the process will be managed by RDNO staff who have clearly indicated their preference for the status quo, and, 
  • discussions are to be limited to the scope of the current Master Water Plan.

New ideas and approaches will not be allowed, even though regulatory requirements regarding water and water management have changed in recent years.

A vital component required to ensure objectivity, fairness, and protection of the public interest is missing from the structure and that is the inclusion of an "expert independent consultant" to ensure that real change occurs.

A Motion brought forward by Councillor Kiss, seconded by Councillor Spiers at the most recent GVAC meeting to place a moratorium on major spending arising from the current Master Water Plan was initially "misplaced" in the meeting agenda by Chairman Cunningham and then defeated without debate.

It is the view of the Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan that these actions indicate GVAC and staff's intent with regard to the review.  The review will not offer an unbiased, balanced, fresh new look.  As presently configured, it is heavily weighted to favour the status quo and maintains current practices which the public soundly rejected in the 2014 referendum.

Come on folks!  
We can do better than this.

Let's get back to a place of trust, goodwill and well-considered leadership to set in place a MWP that ensures our children and grandchildren a safe, secure, affordable water supply for the next 50 years.  A petition calling for the inclusion of an "independent consultant" is circulating throughout the Greater Vernon community.  CCMWP is asking all residential, commercial, recreational and agricultural water users to sign it, and send the message to our elected officials that we need real change.

Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan
Terry Mooney, 250.542.2847

...creating additional smoke 'n mirrors to fool people.

The Petition:

Here's the link to the Petition, folks.

Print a copy and get your neighbours and friends and to sign it.
After all, like you they are also concerned about high water rates and the dubious water source known as Duteau Creek on the Aberdeen Plateau.

While the petition doesn't, in its current form, ask for an "independent consultant" to review the Master Water Plan, that has been CCMWP's primary request since the formation of the grassroots group.

"First they ignore you,
then they ridicule you,
then they fight you,
then you win."

The public wants RDNO bureaucrats and the GVAC Chair to know they're being watched.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Three Little Birdies

...were talking about the #1 topic in the North Okanagan:  water rates.
So I took up my position as a fly on the wall.

One was a recently-returned snowbird; the second, a worker in the "drilling business";  the third, a business owner whose company is located 47 kilometres south of Vernon.

Snowbird:  Wife and I spend 165 days annually at our place in LaQuinta, California.  Two people having two showers a day plus we use water for laundry and dishes.  Our monthly rate is from $8.04 to $8.11.  A month!  When we're not there, there's a flat water rate of $7.00 a month by the Imperial Water District in the Cochella Valley.  And not just water, same with energy costs:  with A/C on basically non-stop in January, February and March our invoice is between $70 and $90 monthly.  Dirt cheap!  Back to water.  Here in Vernon?  Hell, we paid $550 under Rate E for the last quarter!  Even when we're not here we pay $200 quarterly for water, sewer and garbage!

A (muted) bird voice:  California's running out of water...

Snowbird:  Americans don't gouge residents...on anything, whether it's fuel (less than half what we pay at the pump), you can buy five cases of beer down there for what you pay here for one.

Muted bird:  I hear the best Scotch sells for one-sixth what we pay.  Good ole' Bring Cash (BC) taxes.

Drilling business bird: I've lost count how many intake pipes we've sunk into Okanagan Lake for people with homes on the lake.   Even the $2 million hockey players.  No application fees, no water rights, no permits, no quarterly invoices, no water meters.

Muted voice:  And they still won't let the rest of us have Okanagan Lake water?  Jeez!

Business owner bird:  No water meter is required for my business, with 55 employees.

Muted voice:  You set up shop in the right place then.

At this point, the fly on the wall couldn't remain detached:

Fly on the wall:  A huge cherry grower in our area can sell his cherries overseas for $32 a pound.  Thinking of the "irrigator" definition which is more accurate, reflecting "use" (as opposed to "farm/agriculture" water rates), the cherry farmer probably earns more annual revenue than I do!  We're all "irrigators".  At what point is a farm able to afford to pay higher water rates because he earns more gross revenue than a bona-fide "ICI/commercial" business.  You may or may not be aware:  for the last "x" number of years, I've had to declare my annual revenue to the BC Assessment Agency (of all people!)  My accountant says that's now the law...versus previously having to report income only to Canada Revenue. 

 "And a bureaucrat-bird swept down and ate the fly," predicted Kia.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Taxpayer Questions

Two letters to the editor, published in the Morning Star June 14th, 2015:

"High Taxes
We just received our 2015 property tax notice.  The insert says there's a "3.42 per cent overall increase in all property tax revenue."

Our home is the same as it was last year, the year before that, and the year before that, but our property taxes are 14.64 per cent higher this year than last.  

Do you ever have the feeling that you can't win?"
Don Rollins

"Water Use
Perhaps someone can tell me why residential users are asked to water at night while the corn fields just outside of town are allowed to be watered during the heat of the day?

The loss due to evaporation must be enormous.  This is particularly galling when residential customers using the same water are subsidizing these users through the exorbitant rates they are being charged to the point we are paying twice as much as Penticton residential users and three times that of Kelowna residents.

Given such wasteful practises, the subsidization of commercial users should end and water rates brought down to a reasonable level."
Brian Sutch

"The result of increased gouging by all levels of government is that people will actually ask questions and make similar statements," offers Kia, adding "and it'll only increase."

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Water Review?

A Morning Star article today, entitled Water Review Still On Tap, appears to warn of some possible surprises coming down the pipe...but maybe only to just a few people?  Thinking people.

by Richard Rolke
"Local politicians insist their minds aren't made up when it comes to Greater Vernon's water utility.

On Thursday, Greater Vernon Advisory Committee members considered 21 assumptions that impact the master water plan.

'We have to look at whether the assumptions are still relevant and we're not precluding anything,' said Juliette Cunningham, chairperson.

The master water plan is being revisited after a majority of voters shot down borrowing $70 million in November for system upgrades.

The assumptions range from filtration being a requirement of Interior Health to establishment of a water license on Okanagan Lake and treating all customers equally.

While few changes were made to the assumptions, Cunningham says that doesn't mean the scope of the master water plan won't evolve.

'Those assumptions can apply to any of the options chosen and it's just the start of the process.'

However, director Gyula Kiss questions the steps GVAC is taking.

'Who is directing it?  It looks like staff is directing it,' he said.

'There should be an independent review of the plan by an individual who knows about water or a company with no connections to the consultants (who drafted the plan).  We always seem to be sticking to the options presented prior to the referendum.'

A stakeholder committee will be formed as part of the process, but Kiss doubts he will be involved.

'I am considered to be biased against the system.  But anyone else is biased the other way,' he said."

"I'd like to suggest something to politicians on the GVAC committee," offers Kia.

...holding up this sign...

The electorate may have to suggest IQ tests...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Large Lakes Water Study

Greater Vernon Water says they haven't performed water tests on Okanagan Lake.

While that stance suits GVW's goal of maintaining the current water sources -- Duteau Creek (called Duteau Slough by the public) and Kalamalka Lake -- Kelowna residents receive their water predominantly from Okanagan Lake at costs considerably lower than ours (almost one-third of the rates we pay for water).

However, Vic Jensen of the Ministry of Environment began a long-term study that focused on Skaha, Osoyoos and Okanagan Lakes.  It showed very high phosphate loading in the 1970s, prompting governments to enforce stricter pollution prevention regulations.  By 2006, water quality had vastly improved.

The Large Lakes Study is available here.

The recently announced formation of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee is the fledgling group of mostly uninformed, non-technical people whose job it will be to "review" the 2012 Master Water Plan and provide input on options for the future improvements to the GVW system.

How about the Master Water Plan's present flaws?
Obviously not within their mandate.
But that doesn't mean they can't discuss it.

They will hopefully seek answers to questions why Okanagan Lake--by its omission--produced a flawed Plan.  But GVW is loading the dice by requesting this non-technical group "determine if the objectives, development and recommended direction in each of the (10) Technical Memoranda of the 2012 MWP corresponds with stakeholder and community perspectives."

And GVW won't permit anyone who was involved in the development of the 2012 MWP to participate on the SAC committee.
Yet the opposite applies for selected advisors, all of whom are "technical" and were instrumental in developing the MWP:  AECOM, the consultant author of the 2012 MWP, and engineering staff.

Geologist Maria Besso advises that Okanagan Lake has a 52.8 year residence time and a huge volume (24.6 cubic kilometres), it is also very deep and has up to 750 meters of glacial gravels deposited in places, as detailed further here in Wikipedia

By contrast, adds Maria, the Aberdeen Plateau lakes feeding the Duteau Creek source are nothing more than shallow puddles that have almost as much annual water license allocated to them as their entire storage capacity.

The 25-page  2012 MWP Technical Memorandum #2--one of 10 which the SAC group will review--is sadly lacking in any deep discussion about the great differences in the quality and quantity of the source waters, she noted.
Here is all it says:
"AECOM, Associated Engineering, Kerr Wood Leidal Greater Vernon Water 2012 Master Water Plan TM2_GVW_Eval_Wss_Final_Feb 26, 2013.Doc 2 2.
Background 2.1
GVW Water Supply Characteristics Duteau Creek and Kalamalka / Wood Lake are the primary drinking water sources for GVW. Although both are surface water sources, each have very different water resource characteristics as it pertains to the water utility. Water from the Duteau Creek source is collected and drawn from an upland (plateau) watershed and associated lakes, which serve as reservoirs. Kalamalka / Wood Lake is a valley-bottom lake and source water includes contributing surface water and groundwater (Clarke GeoScience 2011). The hydrologic regime of the Duteau Creek watershed is dominated by snowmelt and therefore, snow pack depth and timing of snowmelt dictate the supply status of upland reservoirs. Snow pack depth reaches the maximum in late March, early April, while snowmelt starts to fill the reservoirs after this date. Historical data indicates that by the middle of May, the seasonal snow pack is generally gone. This date represents the tail end of the snowmelt season. In normal years; the reservoirs would be nearing capacity by June. After this time, water supply is dependent on precipitation inputs. The summer period also corresponds to the period of peak irrigation demand, with maximum consumption between mid-July and mid-August. In the summer, because stored water is being consumed at a rate that far exceeds inflow, reservoir levels start dropping. Kalamalka / Wood Lake, due to its large storage capacity and long turnover rate is much less susceptible to the annual variations in snow pack depth. Besides Upper Vernon Creek, Oyama Creek, and Coldstream Creek, abundant groundwater springs provide source inflows to Kalamalka / Wood Lake."

Separate links to Technical Memoranda 1 through 10 are here

GVW's prerequisite for an independent review committee

 "There ought'a be a law," offers Kia, "against loading."

Not at GVW.

Friday, June 12, 2015

They're Sending a Message....Albeit the Wrong One

...and voters have long memories...even lasting four years.

The Morning Star today, in their feature entitled "Civic officials send a message", effusively lauded that "Greater Vernon's business leaders are being told that local governments are working together."

Somebody forgot that Chamber of Commerce members are residents--and water users and taxpayers--here too.
Not a mention of one (if not THE) most pressing items on folks' minds:  the Master Water Plan review, ostensibly begun yesterday at the GVAC meeting at RDNO.

Begun...and almost finished, all in one fell swoop.
More on the water review later.

So what did the hobnobbing politicians convince Chamber of Commerce attendees they were doing "for the betterment of the region and its citizens and businesses"?

Are you sitting down?
Might be an idea to do just that.

"Collaborate with other jurisdictions on the proposed twinning (ice sheets) of Kal Tire Place, constructing a new museum and art gallery and looking at ways to help the Okanagan Indian Band service land for development....bolstering the economy with a supply of employment lands and an abandoned rail line."


When the biggest thing to hit the North Okanagan in 10 years--public demand for an independent master water plan review--was supposedly to be uppermost in politicians' minds, if only to attempt to prove that bureaucrats are NOT the tail that wags the dog.

Maybe politicians have forgotten that the public voted against the $70 million borrowing referendum for the 2012 Master Water Plan's projects a short seven months ago, leaving the plan without funding.

"We're heading back up (economically)," gushed Vernon Mayor Mund, "seeing recovery in residential construction."  Will someone please tell Mayor Mund that reducing the downtown vacancy rate to less than 10 per cent isn't going to be achieved with residential construction!  Commercial business properties are For Sale, For Lease, For Rent.  How does residential construction help that?

Also gushing, Coldstream Mayor Garlick, stated that agriculture is "on the upswing" with one major cherry grower selling his cherries for $32 a pound in world markets...a juxtaposition occurred one newspaper page later--in a letter to the editor by Harold Rhenisch that stated, in part "...millions produce cherries shipped out of the country as luxury products for China, it's pretty clear that contemporary water management strategies consider the industrial use of water to create export products to be more valuable than providing water for Greater Vernon homeowners and farmers supplying the local market to produce their own food...that's hardly ethical."


Almost all the politicians present at the Village Green are members of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee--or its Board--where two special meetings were called:  one on June 10th, where they adjourned to In Camera.  That meeting was deemed closed to the public, after which its topic was removed from In Camera.  Turns out that an official from Interior Health was present.  Who coached whom isn't known, but obviously a solidarity strategy when facing the public about filtration issues at Duteau Creek was formulated.

Rather than going to RDNO, the IHA official's time could've been better spent at the Aberdeen Plateau...railing mud-boggers and dirt bikers with a megaphone, to remove themselves from on-going damage of our sensitive water collection area.

Then, presto, yet another special meeting was called:  June 11th, where the Agenda was:

"Master Water Plan Review
-Master Water Plan List of Assumptions dated June 5, 2015
-Stakeholder Advisory Committee Terms of Reference.

That it be recommended to the Board of Directors the Terms of Reference for the Stakeholder Advisory Committee to review the 2012 Greater Vernon Master Water Plan be endorsed, and further that staff be instructed to initiate the process to form the committee as outlined in the Terms of Reference for the Stakeholder Advisory Committee to Review the 2012 Greater Vernon Master Water Plan."

(Blog author:  Bureaucrats must've been burning the midnight oil as the List of Assumptions was finally made available as pages 3 of 6 (LofA) Terms of Reference as pages 7 of 12 at this June 11th meeting link), albeit a day after the meeting.
 So much for transparency.

A First Blush on bureaucrat-penned (via candlelight overnight?) Terms of Reference for the "stakeholder committee" (which, in itself, proves nothing has changed and bureaucrats remain in charge of GVAC officials):

"...a diverse group of GVW customers will be brought together
with no prior involvement in the development of the MWP..."
(including the review of 10 Technical Memoranda!)

Without going so far as to suggest that technically-bright people need not apply, let's see which type of individual this "diverse group" may contain:

2 from agriculture, 2 from non-domestic high water use, 2 from non-domestic "sensitive" customers (hospital, etc.), 1 major Industrial, 3 residential users, 1 developer (but if developers have all left town, it's recommended a rep from the Urban Development Institute will do...a list of their Board is here), 1 local special interest group, ostensibly the Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan, and 1 rep from a local service group.  That's 13...over-weighted by the 3 residential users who haven't a clue about technical memoranda--then or now--other than their water bills are way too high.

Plus:  RDNO's engineering manager, GVW manager, GVW staff, Interior Health (now that they know what to say to the diverse group), and, saving the best for last...AECOM, the author of the thoroughly flawed 2012 Master Water Plan, which replaced the 2002 Master Water Plan.  Obviously--as with Coldstream's Ag Committee, and the Drought Management Committee--will "lead" the committee.
By the nose.

And there's no indication if there's an application process to join the diverse "appointed" group.
But bureaucrats hope to scare many folks with their stated pledge for members to:  "invest time and energy in learning about the GVW system (from bureaucrats), water treatment and distribution (from bureaucrats, actively participate in 6 meetings (July to December) and work constructively and collaboratively with committee members to achieve the (as-yet not fully stated)  committee purpose.  Prospective members will even have to commit to giving a month's notice if they are quitting...after they themselves find a replacement!
Stuck in the thick bureaucratic process:
The committee is modeled after the "Drought Response Team"...(and Coldstream's Agricultural Advisory Committee, which was a sham) to "work on the Master Water Plan to receive and consider information and provide feedback to politicians and staff."

How can at least 12 non-technical people "consider information and provide feedback to politicians and staff?"

Bureaucrats must already be laughing at how many tails they can now effectively wag.
And intimidate.

Here's a question to bureaucrats who have created the List of Assumptions.
Shouldn't that be called List of Facts if it is indeed intended to inform/educate non-technical cold people on an appointed committee?

"There's a saying," says Kia, "that assuming something makes an ass out of you 'n me."

So that would put us all halfway there.

Good luck to the appointed Group.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall during the closed selection process...

A note to bureaucrats and politicians: at least one of your 13 hand selected appointees must be a technical member from Citizens for Changes to the Master Water Plan.

By the way...whatever happened to the group's Number One request to hire an independent technical consultant to review the 2012 Master Water Plans?
Seems RDNO/GVW bureaucrats don't want a consultant to participate...he might see through their smoke 'n mirrors.

Voters are watching!

Anyone wishing to read GVAC's "Adopted Motions" can access "The Failure Path, Monday June 8th blog post.