Stretching out across 27.5 acres of land with berms along the perimeter is the site of the future Maber Flats water detention facility planned by the District of Central Saanich.
The project is currently at the design stage and will be debated by council for their direction. Director of Engineering and Public Works David McAllister said council will determine what the next steps will be, based on some feedback staff has reviewed from the agricultural community and other stakeholders.
Councillor Christopher Graham said the idea of the Maber Flats project is to manage the water flows in the area and to some degree, deal with some pollution issues. He said, however, that the work is being done to primarily manage water flow. He said there are two factors involved.
“There’s an ecological factor in dealing with water flow throughout the year. Traditionally what’s been done is culverting and narrowing of creeks.”
He said people were dealing with water as a problem and trying to move it through their properties as fast as possible. In the case of Hagan Creek, which has Cutthroat trout in it, water levels tend to drop in the summer and then flood in the winter.
“So trying to manage that flow from an ecological perspective is important, also dealing with the flooding and drainage issues here will help deal with those throughout Maber Flats to hopefully make the (farm land) more useable,” Graham explained.
The other factor that needs to be considered, he said, is water recharge and the fact there has been a lot of development in the community. He said with development comes more impermeable surfaces. He says the project will hopefully deal with some of those issues as well.
Graham, who was re-elected to Central Saanich council last year and was a municipal councillor prior to this term in office, said the need for this facility was identified back in 1992. It was recognized then, he said, that there was a lot of development that was occurring in the Keating Valley, creating impermeable surfaces which were increasing water flow, requiring additional drainage strategies to deal with it.
Graham said the previous District council had decided there was an opportunity to acquire the land, following on from the Integrated Storm Water Management Plan (ISMP) that was completed in 2009.
So why has it taken 23 years?
“Money. It’s very expensive” said Graham.
The total cost is dependent on the detailed facility design.
“The estimates I’ve seen is probably the same cost of what it was to purchase which is going to be the cost to finalize the project,” he said.
Grant funding opportunities are also available.
“The construction would be anticipated to be phased and so we wouldn’t be looking at moving on stages without grant funding and partnering opportunities for various aspects,” he continued. “For example its been noted that the West Saanich School Board was supported by council in a grant application they did for … traditional plantings. They’ve gotten that funding and they’ve established a planting site nearby and they have said they would love to do an area in there,” said McAllister.
With the project going back to council for further direction and discussion on the amount of money involved, Central Saanich politicians will also have to make sure there are opportunities for public input.
“The expectation is that for any detail or design process there would be extensive public involvement and engagement through all the affected stakeholders including neighbours,” said McAllister. “For any public process there would involve First Nations, ecological groups, the farming community generally as well as the adjacent neighbours.”
The completion date will be decided through the District’s budget process.