Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Deja vu...all over again

...that famous quote from Yogi Berra.

I recall a comment from a water consultant during the Stakeholder Advisory Committee meetings, where it was stated:  "You're 10 years ahead of Kelowna" (with water planning).

Deja vu all over again.
Boy, oh boy, Kelowna area residents are in for a big surprise...
A gi-normous surprise.

Because Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran's phrases have been heard before.
They've been heard here in the North Okanagan.

You decide:

"...deliver high quality drinking water to all citizens, at equitable rates over time and will maintain agricultural interests....the plan will create a resilient and robust system serving both citizens and industry well into the future..."

(Blog note:  I don't recall hearing "supported by the Province" here.  Probably because Kelowna is B.C. Premier Christy Clark's constituency...)


"...an exercise that began in 2010 ... how best to proceed with the delivery of both domestic and agricultural water..."


"...a city-wide integrated system to achieve:
the best lowest cost city-wide solution;
meet Canadian Drinking Water Quality Standards;
(Blog note:  best and lowest cost are mutually exclusive).

flexibility from administrative and operational perspectives;
(Blog note:  from admin and operational...how about those of residents?)

maintain agricultural interests;
(Blog note:  we Greater Vernon Water customers have that phrase tattooed on our bodies!)

...a number of other benefits, including:
water quality, rate, supply and service equity;
(Blog note:  quality = TCMs etc.; rate = ridiculous rate increases annually while consumption continually declines; supply = guilt 'pressure' from OBWB; service equity = "giving" ag their chlorinated--yes chlorinated--water, almost free).

resilient and redundant system that meets domestic and agricultural needs;
efficiency in operations and administration."
(Blog note:  oh, ours is certainly redundant, which by the way is the opposite of efficiency in operations and admin.)


"...significant progress made to date ... a key consideration when senior levels of government are trying to determine the allocation of grant funding."
(Blog note:  translation:  T2 might pay for some of it...nice 'carrot').


"...technically, water quality issues can be solved independently by each provider, these independent technical solutions will be very costly, creating rate inequity for customers...the more cost effective solution is to create an integrated water system that meets the customers' water service expectations, protects public health, improves the esthetic(sic) qualities of the water, ensures equity in services and costs and creates a resilient and redundant supply system."
(Blog note:  wait until you see GVW's 'combined' solution for domestic and ag...you wanna read about creating rate inequity for customers!!!!  Because ag won't--and doesn't--pay!  Here, the ag 'contribution' approximates 4 per cent of the budget...only 'four'!)


"The preliminary numbers show a $95-million cost savings compared to the plan the team reviewed."
(Blog note:  without telling folks what plan the team initially had in mind?  Another 'carrot'...their residents should know that GVW's newest idea is to have three...yes, three...lines.  Cost for that?  We're at about $145 million now...the ink's not dry on that one yet, either, folks.)


"...would see drinking water drawn from two main sources; Mission Creek when water quality is good and from Okanagan Lake during the remainder of the year.  This significantly reduces the cost of pumping water from the lake for the majority of the year.
(Blog note:  when it's good...they'll tell residents 'tough bananas' when water quality is 'seldom' good.)


"...existing wells and other creeks would also be used as supplemental water sources, helping to defer advanced treatment.
(Blog note:  Existing wells?  good luck with that one because the OBWB will fight the usage of aquifers; and deferring advanced treatment is only for 'x' length of time."  


"...the use of  two main water sources greatly reduces the costs of advanced treatment..."
(Blog note:  residents should ask for 'greatly reduces' to be quantified.)


"...climate change is the biggest unknown when it comes to confidently planning water supply..."
(Blog note:  no, extravagant consultants are equal to climate change in their impact.)


"...best preparation for an uncertain future is to integrate the systems to create resilient and robust networks for both domestic and agricultural water."
(Blog note:  being prepared is not half the battle, despite what the old saying says.)


"...allowing lower quality untreated water to be used for agriculture, greatly reducing costs over time."
(Blog note:  I can't even bring myself to comment on this scandalous oft-heard lie).


"...supportive of any work that will ensure clean, safe and reliable drinking water for Interior Health residents...know that water system improvements come at a cost."
(Blog note:  the phrase 'any work' is downright scary...and we already know what we're already paying here.)

"Maybe Kelowna residents will have it easier--and cheaper--than us here," Kia would've said, adding "with the area being Christy Clark's constituency and all."

Which equals Kelowna's water plan?  GVW customers know which graphic describes ours.


Yogi Berra resurrected.
His sayings anyway.

Anybody notice that Mayor Basran left out the mussels invasion?
Wonder if anybody south of us is interested in what GVW customers pay for water.

Their water plan is available:
The Value Planning Study, found on the City of Kelowna’s website at kelowna.ca

Monday, February 27, 2017

Area "F" ... Metaphor?

Dana Mills expresses his frustration in a Letter to the Editor which will hopefully be published by the Morning Star.
(See this blog's previous entry entitled "Cooking the Water Books").

His letter succinctly explains the Enderby resident's challenges -- in this case simply to receive a reply, let alone a logical answer to a thoughtful question -- when dealing with the uncommunicative chasm called the Regional District of North Okanagan and its area director(s).

"To The Editor, The Morning Star:                                                                               2017 February 10

When we relocated just outside of Enderby a few years ago we knew our residence was serviced by Enderby water and this influenced our decision. We knew that the RDNO billed us for this water and we also had to service a debt they incurred on our behalf. Our RDNO Area "F" Director at the time was Jackie Pearase. She made some public comments indicating our water bills would soar far beyond what other Enderby subscribers would pay, which prompted me to contact her. She responded and set up a meeting for me with her and some senior RDNO managers.

"...the user rate
 was going up because
 "we hadn't had an increase
 for quite some time".

An Engineering manager said our increase was due to maintenance of a pump station owned and operated by Enderby. She was very dismissive when I questioned this. She finally said that the user rate was going up because "we hadn't had an increase for quite some time". Ms. Pearase failed to prevent it then, but we kept in touch and she did move to prevent a planned increase for the subsequent year.

I stayed interested and began a slow learning process. I discovered multiple water subscribers within Area "F" who were serviced and billed directly by the City of Enderby, and that our Water Local Service Area was quite unique and not very efficient. Extensive lobbying, including a rather naive presentation to the RDNO Board of Directors, finally resulted in us being billed directly by the City of Enderby as well. However the RDNO still collects an annual user fee and a debt service tax.

This was a huge relief. It's been one full year now and we saw our total water bill lowered by a few hundred dollars. Kudos to Enderby staff and Council for trying hard to keep their water rates affordable for most of their users. They charge us an out-of-town Parcel Tax too and use these funds to maintain our services.  RDNO now has very little direct involvement with our water and this is how it should be.

"...recorded the
 Chief Financial Officer (at the time)
 stating that they do not leave financial decisions
 in the hands of politicians."

I attended a second meeting with RDNO senior staff during this process and realized meetings with them were largely an exercise in futility. Learning from the past, I audio recorded it and later noted many contradictions. I also recorded the Chief Financial Officer (at the time) stating that they do not leave financial decisions in the hands of politicians. What?

"...he has never responded
 or acknowledged
 any correspondence."

"I'm often the only layperson
 at these meetings.

 Get involved, people, or you will lose the right!

Now our area representative is Herman Halvorson. We didn't question water rates last year during transition, assuming they would be fine tuned later. I have initiated contact with him numerous times on other matters but he has never responded or acknowledged any correspondence. The only times I have ever been able to communicate directly with him is just before Board or Committee meetings.
Note - I'm often the only layperson at these meetings. Get involved, people, or you will lose the right! Please check their website and direct your feedback to RDNO Board members.

"...As per normal, I got no response from anyone."

This brings us to the 2017 preliminary budget. The Small Utilities Rates Imposition Bylaw 2735 plans to increase our RDNO Infrastructure Base Fee by 14.3% over three years. I attended the Electoral Area Advisory Committee meeting December 15, 2016 where the budget was initially presented and sent an email to Director Halvorson the next day expressing concerns and raising questions. As per normal, I got no response from anyone. The next meeting was January 4 where they were to discuss the Bylaw but I couldn't get in because of public outrage over the gymnastics club fiasco. (I witnessed Ms. Martens' presentation in December and saw the disgusting reactions of RDNO politicians and staff) Later I found out the Bylaw was sent back to staff for revision and thought maybe they were considering the very valid points we raised in our letter.  No such luck.

"...gave Mr. Halvorson copies before the meeting.
 He refused to accept what he called "last minute items"."

The next EAAC meeting discussing our rate increase was February 9, 2017 so we refined our position and, as per normal, gave Mr. Halvorson copies before the meeting. He refused to accept what he called "last minute items". The Agenda was published only three days before the meeting, which is when we discovered nothing had changed with the proposed rate increase. Isn't that last minute too? I pointed out he has been aware of our concerns for a long time and that he didn't respond. He said that since I had cc'd the RDNO Small Utilities Manager, he didn't have to respond because staff would. Staff didn't, and their position is they only reply when a letter is actually addressed to them; not a copy. I asked him to make a motion to keep our fee at 2016 rates and he refused.

                                  "...to advocate on our behalf.
                                        Isn't that his actual job?" 

Now I have to request to appear as a delegation at the Board of Directors meeting where they adopt the Bylaw, whenever that may be. We have very strong arguments that a rate imposition increase is not warranted this year but we cannot count on Director Halvorson to advocate on our behalf. Isn't that his actual job?  Perhaps a four year term is too long without recourse.

Director Fleming is concerned that the RDNO does not communicate very well. He was there when staff and Chair Halvorson tried to sanction me for using a recording device. I've got news for him - Board members don't communicate amongst themselves or with RDNO staff very well either.  So sad."

Dana Mills,
Enderby, B.C.

"Area F  might be a metaphor for how Dana's been treated," Kia would've said.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

GVW Dreamin'

Not as catchy a tune as "California Dreamin'", that timeless classic from The Mamas and Papas.

But dreamin' it is nevertheless.

It's GVW Dreamin'.

A consummate optimist, Vernon Councillor Bob Spiers referred to the recently-announced PST exemptions and stated:

"There should be a savings on our water bills
 at GVAC as they have a large bill
 for the electricity used by
 the Mission Hill & Duteau water treatment Plants."

The operative phrase, of course, is "should be".

"Put a chair near your mail slot," Kia would've said, adding "to wait for the reduced-PST water bill."

Maybe install a bed near the mail slot.
Thin line to the normal GVW nightmares.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

GVW Plans Three Water Lines?

Three?  Three?

First things first.

Anyone who has even the remotest memory of the SAC meetings and any aspect of Master Water Plan 2012, along with its predecessors and draft successors will recall bureaucrats loudly admonishing then-GVAC-advisory committee member and Coldstream councillor Gyula Kiss on his suggestion of the feasibility of water license transfers.

Time and again (and again), staff stated (a) water license transfers were not allowed.
That position eventually morphed into (b) water license transfers "would be very difficult".

Water consultants contradicted bureaucrats and warmed to the transfer idea, stating:

"Potential transfers of BX Creek, Coldstream Creek and other small licenses (internal water basin transfers) are certainly feasible.  License amendments would be required, including processes required to minimize environmental impact, and demonstrate the water balance afterwards is viable.  Significant capital investment would be required to divert this water to Kalamalka Lake.  This water, however, could easily be supplied (transferred) to Okanagan Lake.
Similarly, the transfer of water from the reclaimed water system under the City of Vernon Liquid Waste Management Plan could also assist in obtaining these transfer approvals."

Doesn't sound "very difficult" to this observer, and other folks agree.

Besides, no water customer is a stranger to "significant capital investment", having been pummeled by GVW's heavy hand year after year.

So is GVW proceeding with plans to transfer water licenses?
Not a word from them...so much for their desire to improve communications with water users!

Could it be that bureaucrats have forgotten what was discussed during two Technical Advisory Committee Meetings?

"...if we were to transfer licenses from
 Coldstream Creek and Deer Creek
 via Coldstream Creek,
 we could cover our needs until 2045."
 TCM Aug.16,2012

Just to jog the "GVW memory", the August 16/12 TAC meeting: 
  • Buying back ag allocations, and whether they should be added to domestic or agricultural inventory.  The consensus was agriculture.

  • Large volume of UFW (unaccounted for water).  In 2011, GVW billed for 6,348 ML (megalitres), yet more than 8,200 ML were produced at Kalamalka.  It is impossible to determine how much of the Duteau water was for domestic purposes but the total treated water was 13,375 ML.  Reducing losses would reduce requirements for treated water.
 (1 ML = 1,000 m3 = 1,000,000 litres)

  • If Coldstream Creek and Deer Creek licenses were transferred via Coldstream Creek, we could cover our needs until 2045.
"...minor transfers of 10 m3 per second could be allowed,
equating to 864 ML per day!
We only need 1-2 ML per day from a license transfer!"

Note:  The Drinking Water Protection Act does not allow major transfers between watersheds.  However, minor transfers of 10 m3 per second could be allowed in special circumstances.  That could equate to 864 ML per day, and our meager need of 1-2 ML per day should not break the bank.
  • Discussions held on various ways to save water and minimize demand increases.
 "...alarming that in 2012,
 THMs in Duteau water samples
 exceeded samples from Kal Lake
 by 2.5 times!"

  • Trihalomethane (THM) sampling data was presented.  Alarming that in 2012, trihalomethanes in Duteau water samples exceeded samples from Kal Lake by 2.5 times!

The September 13, 2012 TAC meeting, at which TM#5 was presented "Independent Agricultural System":

  • Consultants appear to be recommending a three-fold system:  (a) the existing Kal system, (b) constructing a parallel raw water delivery system strictly for irrigation and, (c) maintaining the old (Vernon Irrigation District) delivery system!  Why?  Because certain zones apparently cannot operate separately until the raw water supply to that zone is established! 
The dual system is already too expensive, and consultants are now recommending a third, all of which have an east-to-west supply line...

"Should the agricultural system become separated from the domestic supply, nonpotable water from Duteau Creek would still require a separate transmission mainline."
 "Our approach is to include an identically sized pipeline to twin the current transmission mainline. Each agricultural zone includes a separate transmission mainline component to Goose Lake."

Why is there no consideration to provide domestic water to all customers from the Mission Hill Water Treatment Plant? Yes, pumping costs would increase (due to customers above the "x"-meter elevation), but costs would certainly be lower than the costs of constructing yet another irrigation line (when one already exists!)

More than one person remains skeptical ... why eliminating Duteau Creek WTP isn't being considered, likely because it would prove $29 million for its construction was spent foolishly.  Everyone knew that DCWTP is undersized for maximum daily demand...yet it is extremely oversized for all other specifications in addition to the inferior quality of water at Duteau.

Gyula Kiss said it best:
  "It is preposterous to consider a separate line
 to deliver the raw irrigation water
 while the current line continues to deliver mixed domestic/irrigation water.

  Since the ultimate objective is to limit treatment to domestic supply,
 it is likely that eventually
 only a trickle of treated water
 will be flowing in these huge lines
 just as it does now during the winter season."
Gyula Kiss                                            

Those residents who turned down the $70 million borrowing referendum in 2014 will be interested in what GVW is planning to spend if they adopt this consulting report with its three lines.

Consultants' summary of infrastructure cost within each Ag Zone:

Did you note the table's Total?  $145,425,000.
One hundred and forty-five million, four hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars!

A cubic Gulp!

An incredulous Gyula Kiss sums it all up:

"It appears to me that the Assumptions are wrong.
MWP 2002 correctly identified the problem being mixed delivery of domestic and irrigation water.

The current system, adopted in 2004, is the same as the old VID system was except much more expensive.

The VID system is capable of delivering irrigation water to all agricultural properties. It was designed for that purpose. What created the problem was the use of irrigation water for domestic purposes.

If we left the former VID system alone it would provide all the irrigation water to all of the agricultural customers.

What we need is a dedicated domestic system that will provide high quality water to all domestic customers. This is only difficult to achieve because we are maintaining the Duteau plant.

Yes, it's difficult to abandon a plant that cost $29 million of taxpayers’ money. 

But Duteau's value to taxpayers diminishes whatever course we take because ALL of the recommended separation projects reduce the volume of treated water produced by the DWTP.

Thus the plant that was designed to treat 160 ML per day will be producing significantly less with every separation project recommended by the report.

At the same time every separation project is a significant cost to the taxpayers.

Even now, for about 10 months of the year DCWTP is grossly under-utilized. At the same time it does not meet drinking water quality. Viewing the potential abandonment of DCWTP from this perspective shows that the loss is not significant.

We could consider the plant as a potential back up reserve in case of a plant failure at Mission Hill.

Way too much time is wasted by highly-paid consultants and staff on designing a third delivery system instead of providing estimates on total separation costs originating from the Mission Hill WTP."
 Gyula Kiss

There's a suggestion if consultants convince GVW bureaucrats to install three water lines, and it is best explained in a graphic:

"We could do worse," Kia would've said, adding "and apparently they want us to."