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Prince Rupert defers half of planned 2024 water system repairs to future years

Delay in confirmation of federal funding pushes back timelines
Water main issues, such as repairs to Crestview Ave seen here last July, have been ongoing for years. Now the city has the budget to make proper repairs, but it is going to take longer than originally anticipated due to delays in the confirmation of federal funding. (Thom Barker/The Northern View)

Prince Rupert’s massive water main replacement project has barely begun and is already behind schedule.

That is, at least behind the schedule the city tentatively set in order to get its 2024 budget and five-year financial plan prepared and approved early so it could undertake the three-year, $200 million infrastructure renewal.

The city had planned to spend upwards of $65 million this year on the project, but the late announcement of federal funding to the tune of $77 million held up the works.

“The City’s budget that was drafted in September [2023] was working with a ‘best estimate’ budget for what would occur in 2024, as well as an optimistic timeframe for receiving confirmation of the $77 million in Federal funding through their Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF),” explained city spokesperson Veronika Stewart in an email to The Northern View.”

“As the community may be aware, we could not start work on our priority 26 km of water and sewer line replacements until federal funding was confirmed. Any expenses incurred before the grant was awarded would have been at the expense of our ratepayers.”

Confirmation came on March 7 necessitating a budget amendment that was adopted at the May 6 regular council meeting.

In the new budget, the city deferred $33 million, or about half the original estimated allocation for 2024, to subsequent years.

While Mayor Herb Pond said he is “definitely disappointed” by the delay, he is choosing to look at the positive aspects of it.

“It’s very exciting that we got the money,” he said. “It doesn’t get us out of the sort of emergency condition that we’re operating under, just in the short term, but it is amazing what this budget is getting done.

He noted that with every kilometre of the highest priority pipes being replaced, the city will save money in emergency repairs.

This year, the budget estimates $87,000 in savings on the operational side.

The mayor also pointed out that when major events occur, the city now has the money to fix the problem fully and permanently, rather than conduct the kind of patchwork repairs that have been ongoing for the past few years.

“If there’s any good news in all of this, it’s that the study we did in predicting where the highest risk places are has been confirmed by real life,” he said.

“So the good news is that, it will interrupt the construction schedule, obviously, but we actually can use that money to go over and affect a full repair of an area… instead of just going in and doing the patch and leaving gravel, we’ll be able to as best we’re able to reallocate resources, but the budget is there for that.”

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Thom Barker

About the Author: Thom Barker

After graduating with a geology degree from Carleton University and taking a detour through the high tech business, Thom started his journalism career as a fact-checker for a magazine in Ottawa in 2002.
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