UPDATE: The Town of Oliver says opening of the irrigation is scheduled for Monday, April 18.
OLIVER – A large irrigation pipe that was damaged in a rock fall off a giant cliff above Gallaghers Lake just north of Oliver will soon be repaired, at least temporarily.
The rock slide happened in January, damaging the underground pipe located at the base of the cliff.
“There was a real sense of panic and urgency,” says Oliver mayor Ron Hovanes.
The pipe was part of the system that supplies water to thousands of acres of orchards, vineyards and ground crops in the Oliver area.
“Just crops alone, years ago when they did a study, it was like $130-million in potential losses from not having water. If you can’t get water at all, you don’t even want to think about losing trees and vines and all that sort of thing,” says Hovanes.
Hovanes says the repairs will begin soon.
“We have to put in two sections of culvert, line all that with cement, and seal it all off to get it up and running for this year. This fall, we’re going to go in there and redo the whole thing,” says Hovanes.
Making things even better says the mayor is the provincial government is paying just over half of the estimated $1-million repair bill.
“Having the province step forward is huge for us. We’re more than appreciative. They listened to us and heard this is a critical need for industry, farmers, and vineyard owners,” says Hovanes.
The $475,000 for Oliver’s share of the irrigation system fix will come from reserve funds, which means other water system projects will likely have to be delayed.
“That’s right. Or the other thing is to raise rates and we don’t like to raise rates more than the cost of inflation or it gets too expensive. So we just have to prioritize what we do,” says orchardist and water councilor, Andre Miller.
The water from the repaired irrigation system should start flowing by mid-April, just in time for the start of the growing season.