Honouring the Irrigation Districts

Honouring the Irrigation Districts

November 10, 2010

Irrigation Districts Being Honoured at Celebration Ceremony

After nearly 150 years of combined service to Westside residents, the Westbank and Lakeview Irrigation Districts will close their doors on December 31, 2010 and their operations and assets will be transferred to the District of West Kelowna, as required by the Letters Patent issued by the Provincial Government at the time of municipality's incorporation.

Mayor Doug Findlater says it is appropriate for West Kelowna to give these utilities a proper goodbye and show appreciation before they become a part of municipal operations on January 1, 2011. The municipality will hold a public open house on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Westbank Lions Hall, with a special presentation to be held at 7 p.m.

Mayor Findlater says this celebratory event serves as the perfect opportunity to honour the irrigation districts' histories, recognize their many accomplishments and welcome them into the West Kelowna family.

"For many, a lot of emotion surrounds the dissolution of the irrigation districts, which was a provincial decision that arose from the community's decision to incorporate in 2007. One can't simply close the doors on these organizations without recognizing all the services the irrigation districts have provided and the investment that employees, boards of trustees and customers have poured into these utilities for so many decades."

The Westbank Irrigation District has been a part of the community since 1922 and the Lakeview Irrigation District since 1951. In addition to providing water to homes, businesses and farms, Westbank Irrigation District operated a cemetery and Lakeview Irrigation District managed recreational properties including Anders Park, Issler Park and the Lakeview Heights Women's Institute Hall, which was later named Lakeview Heights Community Hall.

Both utilities also built significant infrastructure over the years, including major works within the past decade. The Westbank utility completed the state of the art Powers Creek Treatment Plant in 2007 and added an ultraviolet disinfection system in 2009 at a combined cost of $18 million. In 2005, the Lakeview utility raised the level of the Bighorn Reservoir for $1.5 million.

"These projects and services only begin to tell the story about these two organizations, which is why it is appropriate to hold an event in recognition of all their accomplishments It's also a time to recognize the continuing evolution of local government from irrigation district, to regional district to municipality ," stated Findlater. "I encourage all West Kelowna residents to come to the Nov. 16 open house and thank past and present employees and trustees for their contributions to the community over the years."

The District of West Kelowna has been holding joint planning sessions with both irrigation districts for more than a year to map out the transition and ensure it was as seamless as possible for customers. In that vein, on June 8, West Kelowna Council directed staff to establish three separate water utility funds-one for West Kelowna water operations and one for each of the irrigation districts-to be in place for a three-year period. Given that both the Westbank and Lakeview utilities operated for so long as separate entities, with their own revenue, expenses, assets and liabilities, the three-year period will allow for time to review and monitor the funds. The separation will also mean varying user fees among West Kelowna water users and customers of the former irrigation districts. After the three-year period, staff will provide a report to Council on options going forward.

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