Still no funding for canal fix

With a federal election looming, the Town of Oliver may start rocking the boat politically in an attempt to secure funding for much-needed repairs to its irrigation canal.

Town council heard this week the municipality has not heard anything back from the federal government about its $20M grant request to reroute the canal away from the rockfall prone area near Gallagher Lake.

“Currently right now we are in a holding pattern to find out information from the federal government,” town manager Cathy Cowan said.

The nearly 100-year-old Oliver canal brings water to 1,400 hectares of farmland along its 17.4 kilometre route between Vaseux Lake and Hester Creek. In 2016 a rockfall damaged the canal, and since then, the municipality has been working to secure funding for a permanent solution.

“We need to get a little bit more pressure politically going. You know there is an election coming and there is an avenue to pursue there,” said Water Councillor Rick Machial, suggesting if they don’t see some movement soon they start a letter writing campaign.

“With the election we have a short window to try and see if we can force some funding,” he added.

Mayor Martin Johansen agreed, saying the town needs “something sooner than later.”

“I’m reaching out to everybody… I’m pushing all the buttons and talking to everybody and anyone who will listen,” he said. “If we need to go to Ottawa we will go.”

Previous mayor Ron Hovanes travelled to Ottawa last year to meet with ministers about the issue but secured no commitment.

South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings has called on the Liberal government multiple times on the house floor to address the situation, calling it a disaster “waiting to happen, with a common-sense fix waiting to be implemented.”

The entire project will cost an estimated $11M, with the provincial government pitching in $5M. The town submitted the $20M grant, with an expanded scope of the project, at the suggestion of the federal government because the original repairs were too small to fit existing funding criteria.

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