Dry Gulch water system stays status quo

An upgrade to the community's water system has proved to be too costly for owners.

Almost $1.8 million in provincial government funding intended for an upgraded water system in Dry Gulch will have to be reallocated now that the project has proved to be too costly for the tiny community.

At a Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) board meeting on August 3, the decision was made not to proceed to a second petition process for the Dry Gulch water proposal and RDEK staff will now work to seek the approval of the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development for changing the scope of the project and begin discussions with the Wilmer and Spur Valley communities instead, two other Area G communities also in need of water system upgrades.

“It’s very disappointing to me personally because the whole project had been dropped for a number of years simply because there didn’t seem to be a way,” RDEK Electoral Area G director Gerry Wilkie told The Valley Echo. “When I became elected, I thought I’d try and resurrect it and see what could happen but after two years of working on all the angles and different ideas, it just boils down to the fact that it’s too small a service area to be affordable.

“There’s hundreds of these small systems throughout the province that are in the same boat.”

The current Dry Gulch water system does not meet Interior Health standards and, as such, has remained on a boil water advisory. The community is comprised of just 49 land parcels and property owners had turned down the proposal last fall because they felt they couldn’t afford the cost of building the new system, which would require substantially higher monthly user fees as well as a yearly parcel tax. When, at that time, the RDEK board decided to pursue a reallocation of the funds, the community then requested additional time to look into other potential options and a second petition process.

“We recognize how important an upgraded water system is to many people in Dry Gulch,” Wilkie said in an official RDEK release.  “Both staff and community champions have looked into options, and the unfortunate reality is… it’s unaffordable and based on the feedback I received from the community, a second petition would not be supported.”

With a March 2013 deadline on the funding, Wilkie said it’s important to explore whether the funding could be used for other potential projects rather than lose it altogether.