At the request of the West Bench Irrigation District’s (WBID) Board of Trustees, the Province of British Columbia has officially dissolved WBID and transferred responsibility for the West Bench water system to the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS). This will ensure access to federal and provincial grants necessary for water system upgrades required by the Interior Health Authority (IHA) as well as ongoing operations and maintenance. In addition, a number of options for improvements are being proposed.
Although this water project has been going on for many years and residents have a good understanding of the issues, the RDOS is committed to a full process of public consultation BEFORE making a formal recommendation to residents. I envision public consultation consisting of three stages:
- Stage 1 (July 2011): Newsletter, Open House, and transfer from the WBID to the RDOS. The purpose of the initial Open House and transfer is to acknowledge the next phase in the evolution of the West Bench water system and to give residents an opportunity to be heard as the RDOS takes over responsibility for the West Bench water system. Stage 1 will culminate with a survey (online or mail-in, depending on your preference). The survey will provide RDOS staff with a reliable indication of the preferences of ratepayers. The survey will also allow residents to raise additional concerns and issues (you can preregister for the online version of the survey here).
- Stage 2 (later summer, early fall 2011): Detailed proposal by the RDOS to West Bench ratepayers. The RDOS, in consultation with former members of the WBID board of trustees, our consultants, the Province of BC, and residents (plus the Stage 1 survey results), will make a formal recommendation to West Bench residents regarding water system upgrades. Open houses, newsletters, and websites will be used to give residents every opportunity to inform themselves about the proposed upgrade.
- Stage 3: Referendum. The RDOS cannot undertake any major upgrade of the West Bench water system without permission from ratepayers. Permission, in this case, will be through a formal referendum. Since a formal referendum is expensive (e.g., $10,000), it makes sense to hold the West Bench Water System Upgrade Referendum at the same time as the 2011 Local Government elections (Saturday, November 19, 2011). This is our target. If we encounter roadblocks and technical problems along the way, we will delay the referendum until we have everything in order. But is seems cheaper and easier for all to put ourselves in a position to make this decision in the fall of 2011.