The District of Barriere regular council meeting was held at the Barriere Lions Hall on Monday, Aug. 10, at 7 p.m. to accommodate council, staff with room for social distancing, as well as a few seats for members of the public.
However, due to an active conversation that had been taking place on a Barriere Facebook page by residents upset about the ongoing water restrictions in the community, some 40 members of the public turned out for the meeting.
Mayor Ward Stamer pointed out that due to BC Health COVID-19 regulations there were too many people to accommodate in the hall, but if it was acceptable to the public he would address their questions from the porch of the Lions Hall with everyone outside and well spaced. Council also made a revision to the meeting agenda so that item #10, Public Inquiries would be heard first in respect to the state of Barriere’s wells.
“We use about 600 gallons a minute,” said the Mayor, “Normally when we don’t have irrigation we use about 250 gallons s a minute, in the early spring and the fall. Going forward we saw that we had to improve the system and we applied for a grant to produce water in Bradford Park. Unfortunately, with the new BC Groundwater Act it took us longer to develop those wells than we thought.
“Last year, in 2019, Deep Well 2, our main production well, broke down, and as you all remember we started up Bradford and we ended up drinking a bunch of iced tea and that’s because those wells were not fully conditioned.”
He added that going forward, through the spring of 2019 DOB ended up using PW1 and PW3.
“That got us into June, just about ready for our irrigation system season,” said Stamer, “Deep Well 2 was getting repaired. It got repaired, and then we got a lightening strike about the third week of June, and not only did that take the system out, it also caused problems with our electronics and we ended up over-pumping PW3. So then PW3 had to come off line, PW1 also had to come off line, so all last summer we didn’t have Bradford Park at all.
“We had emergency water restrictions, all we had water for and was for gardens and shrubs, but we didn’t have any water for lawns – but we got through it.”
Stamer said they rehabilitated PW3 until it was possible to put a new pump in the ground and start to get it running again.
“That happened in May of this year when PW3 got reconditioned,” said the Mayor, “Now we are working as hard as we can too get PW3 back online. Right now it is up to only producing about 150 gallons per minute, thats all we can ramp it up to right now, and with PW1 doing about 250 gallons a minute that gives us about 400 gallons.
“The issue is until these two wells get fully conditioned we can’t bring them online with Deep Well 2 – that’s the reality – we can’t. Right now we are using about 300,000 gallons a day doing what we are doing right now. We have enough water for our gardens, we have enough water for our shrubs, we have enough water for fire protection. “Remember the reason we have enough water is not to drink it out of the tap – it’s for fire protection. That’s the number one thing we need in this community, and we are using about 300,000 gallons per day.
“For us to water for any irrigation than what I am talking about, any lawns or anything like that, we have to get to at least 500,000 gallons a day, and unfortunately we do not have the capacity to do that right now. All we’ve got is Deep Well 2, doing about 600 gallons a minute, and that’s putting out most of the water we have.
“So until those wells are properly conditioned we can not bring them properly online. That is the reality.
“Going forward we are developing a plan that not only are we going to be able to get Deep Well 2 online and working properly, Deep Well 1 we will also be able to get back online and we’ll be able to add Bradford wells to do their part when they are conditioned. I’m hoping I won’t have to stand up here next year and explain to you why we have water restrictions the way we do.”
Mayor Stamer then opened the meeting to questions from the public.
Question: What about the well on Birch Lane?
“The shallow well at the end of Birch Lane was decommissioned because it was only doing 100 gallons a minute and it was one of the chlorinator ones,” said Stamer, “It was never a production well, it was a water treatment well. It doesn’t really produce anything and has been shut down.”
Question: Can you give us a time-line of how long this will take to get the wells back online?
“The conditioning will take at least a couple of more weeks before we get to that point. But we really don’t have that much more capacity to do what we want to do because we are currently using 300,000 gallons a day,” said Stamer, “We have to get it up to 500,000 gallons a day and we are not entirely sure if the system is going to be able to do that.”
Question: Do you have surge protection to guard against electrical strikes?
“On the recommendation from staff and engineers, at our last Council meeting, we allocated $25,000 to change our communication system between the wells and the reservoirs,” said the Mayor, “We are going to toss out the radios and the antennas and we are going strictly on cellular. That’s what everybody else is doing and it’s going to make it so much easier for the system to run. Our utilities manager Mr. Crosson will be able to grab his phone anywhere he wants and he’ll be able to know exactly what’s going on, what pump is running, how much that pump has pumped – he won’t even have to go down and check it out. That’s what we need to have in this community, it’s 21st Century technology, not the stuff that we have had in the past. That’s one of the reasons we are in this situation, because of the lightening strike, it took out the tower, sent a signal, and the next thing you know we over pumped that well.”
Question: Why are we doing fiber optics instead of cell?
“I would love to do fiber optics to all of our facilities,” said the Mayor. Crosson added, “The cost of running fiber optics is not even feasible right now.”
Question: How much water does Barriere have?
“We have more than enough water for domestic use as we build our infrastructure and our tax base,” answered the Mayor, “The only thing we don’t have is the excess water for lawns, we have more than enough water for everything else, but we don’t have that. In the past, in the old days, not that long ago, we pumped 12 million gallons of water in one week. That’s a huge amount – there is no reason for us to do that. If we turn around and start irrigating again we are probably going to be in that 600,000 to 700,000 gallons a day rate, not one-and-a-half million; and that’s because of the conservation efforts that everybody is doing on a daily basis. And every single gallon of water that we pump we have to pay for through electricity, so why would we pump a whole bunch of extra water just so that we can spray it all over the place, that doesn’t make any sense. To answer your question, we have more than enough water for domestic, we just don’t have extra water for lawns right now.”
Question: “When will the water restrictions improve?
“Realistically we need 1000 to 1200 gallons a minute to run the town the way we want to. Right now we are only at 600 – that’s what we have. Until we can turn around and get those improvements that’s what we are faced with.”
Question: Why are we taking more and more people into Barriere when this will require more and more water? Why not wait until wells are all fixed and we are all going again?
“Thank you for that,” answered the Mayor, “We are also talking about increases in costs, and we also need to increase the taxation base. The only way we can increase our taxation is by building our base, and thats by encouraging people to move here. Again, if we add another 20, 30, or 40 houses, it’s not going to make any difference to us on a daily basis, all they are doing is running their toilets and watering their gardens and their shrubs. It’s the irrigation on the lots that is significant. That’s why so many of our residents have switched over to zeroscaping for two reasons, one it’s a whole let less work as far as upkeep and time to deal with it, and two it uses way less water. That’s why a lot of people are doing that. I’ve got a huge yard and I haven’t been able to put one drop on it in two years. I’m not saying we all have to zeroscape, but I am saying their are people who are doing that. There are other communities in B.C. that have no irrigation whatsoever. They have nothing, no gardens, no shrubs, no nothing.”
Question: Why did we have water and now we don’t?
“We had two deep wells and they are getting to the end of their age.”
Question: Why can’t you draw water out of the river?
“We have to have a treatment plant for that.”
Question: How many gallons can you pull out of the river?
“We have a license on the Barriere River and that is something that we are looking into,” said Stamer, “It may not be something in phase one or phase two but there’s a pretty good chance that may also come into our plan. Chase right now has a duel treatment plant because they take water out of the South Thompson, and they also have a deep well, so they have a duel treatment plant. That is something similar that we might want to be able to build here.”
Question: How does the Louis Creek Industrial Park get their water?
“They have their own individual water system. That’s something that we are already developing and it’s totally separate. Most of that water is for fire protection, very little is potable, but mostly just for fire protection. Money that we raise from the selling of those lots we just turn around and put that money right back into the infrastructure at the Industrial Park. That hasn’t affected our tax base or tax rate in Barriere, that money is coming strictly out of the Industrial Park from the funds that we have created.”
Question: Is water from a Barriere reservoir going to be piped to the Louis Creek Industrial Park?
“No. Absolutely not,” answered the Mayor.”
At this point Councilor Al Fortin requested the Mayor explain, “How the ground water licensing has changed here and how we go about licensing our wells?”
Stamer answered, “In the old days licensing wasn’t much of a process, whether you were using surface water or ground water. Now it has totally changed and that’s part of the reason why we are having the situation with Bradford Park, as we had to wait longer than we should of to get those wells into production because they wouldn’t give us the license. We were only able to get water out of them for three days and that’s it, and then we had to wait two years from the government before we could even run those wells again. It’s got nothing to do with us, that’s the way it was. So we never had a chance to fully condition those wells the way they should have been – and that’s unfortunate.”
Question: We need water for fire suppression, especially after what happened in 2003… If there is a fire alert and we need water, something needs to be put into place so we can pump water straight out the Barriere River so we have instant fire suppression.
Stamer answered, “Because we have four wells that is a non-issue now. We are in position where we have four operational wells, we have reservoirs that are full. That is a non-issue now because back then in 2003 we didn’t have any generators on our wells – right now we do. So going forward what we would like to have is a generator on both Bradford and Spruce Crescent. If all of a sudden we lose power for whatever reason we could keep those reservoirs full. To me that’s a safer way than using the river on a short term basis, as the next thing is you are going to have rocks and all kinds of stuff introduced into the system. I appreciate that though, as going forward there may be a right of way going up to Spruce Crescent and we do have a license on the river. Which is one thing I do not want to give up because somewhere along in the future we may be drawing water from the Barriere River, but right now it’s not something we can do.
“In 2003 the wells were running but we had no power. The treatment plant only restricted the flow out of Deep Well 1, but we had more than enough water from Deep Well 2 but the problem was we had no power, and we couldn’t get a generator big enough to run the well on Spruce Crescent at that time. Now we have a generator on Bradford, and when those two wells are running we have 500 gallons per minute we can put into the system. It doesn’t matter what happens, we’ve got power for that. Going forward we would like to have a generator up in Spruce Crescent as well, so if we lost power like we did in 2003 we have power there as well. In an emergency situation we could get Bradford running right away.
“Right now, if we lost power for 72 hours, Mr. Crosson could be pumping 250 gallons a minute out of PW1, and that’s what we use in the off season. So if we shut the whole town down, and said “no sprinkling”, we would still have enough water for fire suppression, and still have enough water for domestic use just with that alone. Right now, if we suddenly had no power we could still run the town.”
Question: Will resident’s water bills go up?
“We haven’t had an increase in our water bill for at least six years,”said the Mayor, “But there will be an increase this year. We are still well below a lot of other municipalities in B.C. We are not the only ones that have challenges when it comes to water infrastructure and distribution. We are not making any money off it, the money we receive from our water goes right back into the system. And yes, we are going to have to put some more investment into our water system, we are probably going to have to have a new treatment plant.
Question: Where are the reservoirs?
“Barriere has two reservoirs, a new one up Armour Mountain, which is about three times the size of the old one which we have on the other side of town, it’s part of Carman Smith’s property, which is basically a glorified swimming pool,” said the Mayor, “So now we have two reservoirs to help balance us out.”
Question: Will we ever get off these water restrictions?
“Yes”, answered Stamer, “We just don’t have the capacity to get us to the next level for water, we just don’t quite have it yet. Next year we will be looking at some of our levels with water usage and where we are and I’m hoping to have a lot more water next year.”
The Mayor wrapped up the meeting with residents at approximately 7:35 p.m. saying, “I really appreciate everyone coming out, I hope this gives you a little bit more information about what we are up against, we are just about through the hot spell, we can ride this thing out, we can get the wells working the way they should. We can condition the wells to run in Bradford the way they should so that next year we don’t have this situation where we are on watering restrictions. But again, like I mentioned, we have enough water for our garden, we have enough water for our shrubs, we have enough water for fire suppression and domestic use – please bear with us – we are going to get through this together.”