Metro Vancouver’s board voted Friday to overhaul its formula for regionally sharing the astronomical costs of new sewage treatment plants, but stopped short of providing the level of relief sought by Vancouver and the North Shore.
In a 64-60 weighted vote, directors from Surrey, Burnaby and the Tri-Cities carried the day, insisting the revised formula must be more fair to their residents than staff had proposed.
The new projects – the replacement of first the Lions Gate and then the Iona sewage treatment plants at a combined cost of perhaps $1.6 billion – will dramatically drive up Metro sewage fees, particularly for residents in the benefitting areas of the North Shore and Vancouver.
Their representatives wanted 70 per cent of capital costs of all future projects to be spread across the region, while 30 per cent would fall on the local area.
Instead, the compromise formula that passed gives more credit to contributions to past projects by cities in the eastern parts of the region.
Under the new formula:
• North Shore annual sewage fees are expected to rise from $267 now to $715 by 2030.
• Fraser sewerage area homes (Surrey, Burnaby, Tri-Cities and other eastern cities that use Annacis) go from $182 now to $319 by 2030.
• Vancouver fees go from $197 to $495.
• Lulu Island sewerage area (most of Richmond) goes from $247 to $471.
The staff-recommended formula would have spread the pain further yet, cutting 2030 costs on the North Shore to $678 per home and raising them slightly elsewhere.
“I don’t think that’s right, I don’t think that’s fair to the people in my community,” said Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.
He said Burnaby and cities to the east have paid more for years for secondary treatment at the Annacis Island treatment plant, which Vancouver and the North Shore refused to contribute extra to then.
“I’d like to see Vancouver and the North Shore reimburse those of us who have been paying more for decades,” added Richmond Coun. Harold Steves.
Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie urged directors to agree to the 70-30 formula to level the playing field and ensure the same battle isn’t refought again in a decade or so when Annacis needs to be expanded.
If Metro directors had refused any change in the formula, North Shore fees would have hit $834 per home by 2030.
Even with the compromise formula, North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton said he doesn’t look forward to explaining to North Shore residents why it will cost so much more to flush a toilet there than south of the Fraser.
Walton said they might well wonder why South of Fraser residents pay the same price for water as residents of the North Shore, where the water comes from.