Calling this a “water system management project” is a bit of a misnomer. It is basically a sewer expansion project whose goals appear to be to increase density in East Langley and, through new hookups to the sewer, generate funds to repair the aging infrastructure in the downtown core. Smaller projects were thrown in to sweeten the deal and appeal to voters in other parts of the city.
The aging infrastructure does indeed need to be fixed but this can be achieved with tax dollars and smaller grants, like those used to replace the water pipes on Decker and Third Street. The process would be more gradual but this may turn out to be the case anyway if the infrastructure improvements targeted by the bond turn out to cost more than what is budgeted.
The whole concept does not appear to be well thought out. A large part of the $3 million from the county is slated to go for engineering. Since the engineering has not been done, how can we know how much any of the projects will cost? Also, on some of the streets there is not enough room in the right-of-way for both the sewer and water lines to be installed as far apart as is required for safety. I know a lot of work went into crafting this bond measure and I appreciate that, but unfortunately it needs to go back to the drawing board. Many of the possible outcomes and practical issues have yet to be addressed.
For instance: what about the environmental impacts from increasing density in an area of the city which is made up of wetlands and unstable bluffs? The storm water system proposed in the bond will only address surface water from the streets, not the ground water which will be increased from all the impervious surface of new development. It is the water traveling underground that ends up daylighting in the bluff and causing further destabilization. What we need is a grant for a hydrogeological study to determine what exactly is going on underground in East Langley before undertaking projects that could make matters worse. In fact, we need a citywide study to map wetlands and underground streams. There are a lot of data already available. We just need to build on it.
If the majority of us in East Langley wanted a sewer or thought it would make a significant difference with our drainage problems, we would be clamoring for it. In fact, most of us have state of the art or at least highly functioning onsite sewer systems that are working just fine. Yes, we would welcome new water pipes and a storm water system that actually addresses the complex issues of our wetlands and bluffs. Let’s start with what’s actually needed: fixing the aging existing infrastructure and doing the necessary studies to determine exactly what the fragile ecosystem in East Langley does and does not need.