By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
The Malloy Drain Steering Committee recently heard updates from the project’s technical committee regarding the status of the project.
A project overview was presented to the Committee and provided a summary of how the project has evolved since the last phase was completed and also included a revised cost estimate outlining the “significant” increase in projected costs since the original estimate was completed in 2017. Included in the presentation was also a revision of the project’s original scope of work as costs have increased.
The report to council noted the Town of Coaldale has recently drafted a letter to the Minister of Environment and Protected Areas, Rebecca Schultz alongside a request to the Province to increase the government’s funding commitment for the project from $1,238,000 to $4,445,850. The request to the Province noted proposed the three parties (Lethbridge County, the Town of Coaldale and SMRID) would increase their funding contribution in tandem from $285,550 (which increased over the years to $340,000) up to $600,000 per partner. The Malloy Drain Steering Committee noted the increase in the partner’s funding commitment would help demonstrate to the Province that all three parties are willing to increase their contribution if the Province does the same.
Devon Thiele, Director of Infrastructure at Lethbridge County, told council during the July 6 County council meeting, “the request for scope reduction has been submitted to the grant administrators to lessen the financial burden of the project. The scope reduction would essentially exclude the construction of the pond near Cottonwood, the project will still result in about 500,000 cubes of storage and by utilizing the existing abandoned raw water reservoirs in the town of Coaldale, the intent with removing the south pond would be to use this area as a source of fill material for developers in Coaldale which would almost eliminate the costs associated with constructing a pond,” as developers would be able to build out their developments while creating the pond at the same time. The increase in cost is attributed to the initial estimate now being six years old, the cost did not include engineering services, and the intent at the time was to have Town of Coaldale complete engineering but, “due to reasons outside anyone’s control, the Town (of Coaldale) is no longer in that position,” and land costs have increased significantly since 2017 resulting is cost increases for all three parties.
The recommendation by Thiele was that council approve the signature on the attached letter of support to Minister Schulz and to approve an additional $260,000 in funds towards the project for a total of $600,000 contingent on receiving an additional $4,445,850 from the Province. Thiele said, “the Committee feels that increasing the funding commitment of the three parties increases the chances of receiving additional funding from the Province,” but noted if the request were to not be approved successful, the County’s commitment will remain at $340,000.
While the County does not have a legal obligation to increase their contribution to the project, Thiele went on to say, “it would most likely lessen the chances of us receiving additional funding from the Province.”
Coun. VanderVeen inquired as to the prolonger timeline of the project, to which Thiele responded, “it took longer than the Town of Coaldale anticipated to procure the land,” and reiterated, “the Town of Coaldale planned on doing the engineering on this and the intent was for them to do the design (…) the person that they had in line for that is no longer able to do that,” which ultimately delayed the project.
Thiele said the timeline for completion, “is contingent on receiving additional funding; if we are able to get more funding from the Province, then we can probably get going on this sooner than later.” If the Province is unwilling to put up the additional funding for the project, the committee will need to meet again to determine what the next steps will be and explore options to close a “rather substantial” funding gap.
Reeve Tory Campbell, who sits on the steering committee, said, “the overall project was always intended to be a phased project with some more of the critical work taking place sooner on opening up the drain itself physically, making it bigger toward Stafford, and then moving it back toward the town. I think it is fair to say, the higher priority projects were checked off the list first and we are kind of moving towards the end.”
To date phases 1 and 2A have been completed with phase 2B being next, which will create more stormwater retention in the area.
Speaking to some of the cost escalations, Coun. Van Essen noted, “in a lot of ways it appears that portions regarding the County are either completed or definitely well underway. I’m struggling to find our commitment requirement in this further for the final leg.”
Thiele responded, “the intent when this first came along was for the three parties because the County and Coaldale are in the heart of that kind of ditched area where there is significant stormwater issues, and SMRID is the only means to get rid of that water so it was decided years ago that all three parties would come together and work on this 10 year implementation plan understanding that some projects may benefit other parties more than the other but at the end we are all benefiting partners in this. We can reduce flooding in the County and Coaldale and SMRID can help us by facilitating conveyance systems, to get rid of that stormwater (…) In good faith, it was agreed to that we would continue as three partners and work towards stormwater management in and around the Coaldale area.
“Upon completion of the 10 (project) phases, it will reduce the burden on developers and their stormwater requirements. So, right now, they are very restricted in that Malloy Basin as to what they can do and the amount of stormwater they have to capture,” said Thiele. Once upgrades are complete, the burden would be lessened for developers interested in developing that area and may help to facilitate additional development.
County Council passed a resolution to send a letter of support under Reeve Campbell’s signature to Minister Shultz, requesting that the Province increase the funding for the Malloy Drain project. Council also voted in favour of approving an additional $240,000 for the project, bringing their total financial commitment to $600,000, contingent on the Province contributing an additional $4,445,850 for the project.