The Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO), Township of Spallumcheen and the Okanagan Indian Band (OIB) were awarded $24.3 million from the federal and provincial governments to fund the wastewater recovery project.
Cheers rang out from more than 100 people in attendance of the announcement made by Township of Spallumcheen Mayor Christine Fraser on Sept. 12. The project, which has been in the works for four years, has faced a number of hurdles and the government investment is one of the most significant milestones to date.
Reclaiming water is important for agricultural use, Fraser said. In one year in Spallumcheen, “over 1,000 acres lose all of their forage crops due to a shortage of water. With the new wastewater recovery project, over 600 acres of irrigation water for farming will be provided which is an enormous benefit to our farmers.”
Without the grant money, the project—which will benefit all three partners—would not be possible.
In fact, hurdles the RDNO, township and OIB overcame could have stopped the project dead in its track, had the partners and stakeholders been less determined.
Had the petition not been successful, or had the land not been obtained, or had the grant application failed, the shovel never would have been able to hit the ground. But the team prevailed; land was purchased, necessary petition processes were successful and government lobbying resulted in a successful grant award.
“Money like this doesn’t normally come here,” RDNO Electoral Area C director Amanda Shatzko said. “It goes to the Lower Mainland, it goes to Central and South Okanagan, but it often doesn’t come to the North Okanagan.”
RDNO Electoral Area B director Bob Fleming said the benefits of the project “will drive our economy for years to come.”
“Investing in water is investing in this community,” Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis said.
“I always ask people, what’s the actual value of your property without water? It isn’t much. When you start looking at water through that lens, it’s worth every effort to protect our water through holding ourselves to the highest standards.”
The project team will begin planning and engineering work to make the wastewater recovery project a reality.