Sewage cost sharing split divides Metro Vancouver cities

Homes to pay hundreds of dollars more and proposed change to formula would spread the pain

Metro Vancouver politicians are divided over how to redraw a formula for allocating the huge costs of new sewage treatment projects across the region.

The new projects – the replacement of first the Lions Gate and then the Iona sewage treatment plants at a combined cost of perhaps $1.6 billion – will dramatically drive up Metro sewage fees, particularly for North Shore residents if there’s no change to the allocation system that’s been in place since 1994.

So haggling has been underway for months to revise the cost-sharing formula to spread a bit more of the pain onto other parts of the region.

A tie vote Thursday of the Metro zero waste committee defeated a staff recommendation to proceed with the option most generous to the North Shore – that 70 per cent of capital costs of all future projects be shared across the region, while the rest falls on the benefitting area.

That would still be a huge hit on the North Shore, pushing annual sewage fees for the typical household up from $267 now to $678 by 2030, but still less than the $834 estimated hit per home by 2030 under the status quo formula.

For cities like Surrey, Coquitlam and Burnaby in Metro’s Fraser sewerage area (see green area on map below) that use the Annacis Island treatment plant, the recommended change would have pushed costs from $182 to $323 per home by 2030, based on estimates of future projects to be cost-shared, compared to $300 in 2030 under the existing formula.

Directors then voted 6-4 for a compromise option that takes into account some of the past costs incurred by cities like Surrey on older sewage upgrades, like Annacis.

It would see North Shore homes paying $715 by 2030, while Fraser-area homes would pay $319.

Homes in most of Richmond that are in the Lulu Island sewerage area would pay $471 by 2030 (up from $247 now) and the Vancouver sewerage area, which includes Vancouver, Sea Island and western fringes of Burnaby, would pay $495 (up from $197 now). (See chart of projected fees below.)

Nobody is predicting which way the vote will go on the issue when it gets to the full Metro board on Nov. 15.

“It’s going to be a battle at the board I think,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said.

“The issue has been controversial from the building. The North Shore and Vancouver clearly have an economic interest that’s served by a change. And there’s others who see adverse economic consequences and are not prepared to agree.”

Surrey councillors have been particularly resistant, saying their city sought a fairer formula to share the load years ago when Annacis was upgraded but were rebuffed by North Shore and Vancouver politicians who didn’t want their cities to pay more at that time for a plant they don’t use.

The bite to households could still be less than Metro estimates.

The numbers assume no large contributions from senior governments, which regional politicians all hope will materialize.

Sewerage areas

Map shows North Shore sewerage area in yellow, Vancouver in gold, Lulu Island in pink and Fraser sewerage area in green.

Projected sewage fee increase per home | Create infographics

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