Caved in

A section of a two-metre concrete pipe damaged by a rockslide in 2016.

It appears Ottawa won’t be pitching in to help patch up Oliver’s agricultural irrigation system.

Cathy Cowan, the town’s chief administrative officer, said Thursday she had received “verbal confirmation” from federal officials that Oliver’s application for $22.3 million from the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund had been denied.

She’s awaiting official confirmation in writing before going back to the drawing board and wouldn’t speculate on what Plan B might look like.

“Council hasn’t had the opportunity to consider what steps may be taken next,” said Cowan.

The system was damaged in 2016 when rocks crushed a section of pipe at the base of a hill near Gallagher Lake. The pipe helps carry water to about 600 connections in Oliver, rural Oliver and on the Osoyoos Indian Reserve.

A temporary fix was installed in 2017, but since then the town has been working to find the money to reroute about three kilometres of 2.4-metre-diameter pipe in a trench parallel to Highway 97 so it’s out of harm’s way.

The cost of the project was estimated at $12 million as of January. However, the town expanded the scope of the job to lift it past the $20-million mark required to qualify for the grant program.

The B.C. government has already committed $5 million to the project.

Town officials have been lobbying the federal government since 2017 for financial assistance based partly on an analysis that estimated agricultural losses at $140 million if the system were to fail entirely.

Council heard in May that for every $1 million it has to borrow for the job, water rates will need to increase approximately 1.8%.

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