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Minister advises mediation

Bonnyville Town council plans to seek mediation with the City of Cold Lake and the Cold Lake Regional Utilities Commission in an attempt to secure the municipality's long-term water supply.

Bonnyville Town council plans to seek mediation with the City of Cold Lake and the Cold Lake Regional Utilities Commission in an attempt to secure the municipality's long-term water supply.

Town council discussed the response from Environment minister Rob Renner to Mayor Ernie Isley's request earlier this summer for direction on Bonnyville's water woes at its meeting Aug. 24.

Council voted to invite Cold Lake to mediation and also to ask Alberta Transportation to fund and study the option of upgrading the existing water plant at Moose Lake to identify the cost of that option.

Isley wrote both Renner and Transportation minister Luke Ouellette requesting direction for water options earlier this summer. Isley explained to the ministers that the Town's three options were to get the Cold Lake waterline application resubmitted by government order, to create a new commission to bring raw or treated water to Bonnyville, or to upgrade the existing Bonnyville water treatment plant and continue to draw water from Moose Lake.

In his response, Renner recommended Bonnyville work with the City of Cold Lake to find a solution, and to use an Alberta Municipal Affairs mediator if needed. “While the mediator cannot force a resolution, this effort could help the Town of Bonnyville and the City of Cold Lake work towards a mutually beneficial agreement,” wrote Renner.

Renner stated Alberta Environment has heard concerns about the taste and odour of Bonnyville's current drinking water, but also that the current water treatment plant continues to provide safe and secure drinking water. He said although high organic content in Moose Lake's raw water supply affect the water supply due to constraints in treatment efficiency, plant upgrades could remedy the problem.

However, the letter also states that due to Bonnyville's aging water treatment facilities and the less suitable raw water of Moose Lake, “Alberta Environment supports the completion of the regional water supply line to the Town of Bonnyville,” and that “Cold Lake generally has very stable water levels, and it is a very sustainable source of water of municipal and industrial use.”

Town CAO Mark Power commented at council meeting that a problem of the previous mediation was the parties were not consulted to ensure they were in agreement with the mediation process before it started.

Ouellette's brief response to Isley suggested that Bonnyville continue to assess available alternatives.

“I don't know whether there would be a lot of benefits or advantages to either side of a mediation with Cold Lake concerning water from Cold Lake. The water in Cold Lake is not owned by the City of Cold Lake,” said Coun. Jim Cheverie as council discussed the minister's response, adding that the lake is a federal body of water.

“Is mediation really the way to go, or should we be pursuing other options and leave the Cold Lake Regional Utilities Services Commission alone to wallow in their own sorrows?” asked Coun. Gene Sobolewski.

The RUSC withdrew the application for the water supply line in late 2009 citing concerns for downstream users and lake levels.

“Everybody seems to continue to forget that our water does service the people in Saskatchewan in the Goodsoil area,” said Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland over the phone. “We wanted the whole region to be looked at.”

Copeland said the lake's capacity would not support a population over 60,000 and that Cold Lake and surrounding area is the fastest growing in the region.

“It's not a bargaining chip. Unfortunately the Bonnyville Town council continues to use that as an excuse,” Copeland said, adding that water didn't factor into the previous mediation with Ray Danyluk.

Copeland said he would support Bonnyville and the government of Alberta looking into modernizing the Moose Lake treatment plant, Isley's third option listed in the letter to Renner and Ouellette.