Three unsexy projects account for bulk of $1 billion in infrastructure needs

Abbotsford to seek provincial and federal funds to pay for major upgrades

While dozens of infrastructure upgrades and additions are laid out in the plans, the majority of money – whether it be that of Abbotsford taxpayers or from senior levels of government – is slated to go towards three exceptionally unsexy projects.

The most imminent is the construction of a new water source for the city. A new collector well located near the Fraser River will augment the city’s water supply by 25 megalitres in 2020, and – if the city grows as predicted – by another 25 megalitres in 2041. The total cost of the project would be $76 million. Three-quarters of that cost would come during initial construction, within the next five years, with the remainder required to expand the well two decades later. Improved water conservation has reduced the strain on the city’s water system, and the cost of a collector well remains hundreds of millions of dollars less than what it would have cost to tap Stave Lake, which was rejected by the public during a 2011 referendum.

“Thank God it failed in referendum,” Coun. Dave Loewen, one of the councillors who had supported the Stave Lake project, said Monday.

Further into the future, staff say the city will need to build a new wastewater treatment facility that is expected to cost in excess of $250 million. A $1 million upgrade to the current JAMES treatment should see Abbotsford and Mission – which also uses and helps fund the facility – through to 2031. But at that point, the city expects to need to build a new liquid treatment plant adjacent to the current facility. The plant’s first stage itself would cost $124 million. But before construction would even begin, the city expects to need to spend $88 million just to improve the ground and floodproof the site, which is next to the Fraser River.

A decade later, another upgrade is expected to be needed, at about the same cost, on the other side of the JAMES site.

Finally, the biggest project of them all is the needed raising and stabilization of the dikes that protect Sumas and Matsqui prairies from a possible major flood. Dikes along the Fraser River and the Vedder Canal aren’t high enough and are liable to fail in the event of a major earthquake. Upgrading the dikes to meet provincial standards would cost around $420 million. Council wants the province and federal government to eventually pay the whole cost, with Mayor Henry Braun saying cities don’t have the tax base to fund such major projects.

“We seem to have to have a catastrophe and all of a sudden there are billions of dollars available,” he told The News last month. “Why does it take that?”


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

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