Kamloops council has delayed by two years shutdown of winter stock water to Westsyde farms and asked staff to further investigate before determining the fate of the Noble Creek Irrigation System. Mayor Ken Christian sent a letter dated Jan. 30 to about three-dozen water users — from south of Dairy Road to the northern reaches of city limits — who rely on that system, notifying them the water, which is used by livestock at about five farms during winter months, will not be discontinued until Sept. 30, 2021.
Farmers were earlier notified stock water would be shut off as of Sept. 30, 2019.
The letter, which was obtained by Kamloops This Week, also states: “Council also directed city staff to continue to operate the NCIS in the immediate term with the understanding that staff will gather additional information on the operation of the system for a future council report.”
City civic operations director Jen Fretz said council essentially put plans for the utility on pause while staff research alternatives to bring back to council. According to the letter, the city will review the system’s rate structure, maintenance and capital needs.
Water users were earlier told by the city that the system, which is about 50 years old, requires significant upgrades and runs at a loss every year. Winter stock water for livestock to about five farms was to be shut off in September 2019, with the fate of seasonal irrigation for all of the 36 properties yet to be decided — but possibly facing a similar fate.
Council had directed staff during closed-door meetings to transfer the system to its users, sell the system or stop using the system and decommission it.
Coun. Mike O’Reilly said the original decision was made by an earlier council, noting the new council wanted to take a different approach. He said most of council attended an open house in December, when Westsyde residents impacted by the decision turned up by the dozens to voice concerns.
“We’re looking at it through a different lens and we want to explore different options,” O’Reilly said. “Whatever works out, we don’t know at this point, but research and homework is being done.”
Westsyde farmers were grateful for council’s decision, but they remain cautiously optimistic.
Cattle rancher Jon Peachey is pleased stock water use has been extended because, he said, the timeframe was too tight to make additional plans. However, he would have liked to see the city go further and retract entirely its original letter.
“I am guardedly optimistic,” Peachey said. “I would have liked them to take it one step further that they were encouraging urban agriculture. They didn’t go that far.”
One reality of the infrastructure, however, is that it is unreliable. During the open house, Fretz told farmers the system is hindered when water levels are below the intake. That was the case this past Monday.
“Unfortunately, the system is down until the river comes back up,” Fretz told KTW.
It is unclear when that water will be turned on and it has forced farmer Gerd Dessau to use the city’s domestic water system for about a dozen cattle on his Dairy Road property. That water is metered and will cost him until stock water is again available.
“When you have livestock, you’re committed to feed the animals and water the animals,” he said,. “If you don’t have any water, what are you going to do with them? We’re in the cattle business. We’re in the hay business. There’s no other way out for us.”
As the city continues to investigate the fate of the water system, Dessau said the city in the meantime needs a Plan B.
“If this happened in Aberdeen, what do you thing would happen then? Right? It’s just not acceptable,” Dessau said.