Acting mayor Rick Kasper with clean water produced by the Sooke sewage treatment facility. Kasper

Mayors to Washington: Our sewage is not the same

Island municipalities are banding together to stand against American sewage critics in an effort to protect tourism

Sooke acting mayor Rick Kasper and Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor have written a joint letter to senior officials in Washington state saying not all Greater Victoria communities should be “tarred with the same brush” when it comes to sewage treatment.

They also urge American politicians not to consider a tourism boycott.

Sidney Mayor Steve Price sent out his own letter.

“Sooke is a premier sport fishing destination and our community has long strived to protect coastal waters, to foster and sustain active fisheries of crab and shrimp in our harbour, and year-round fisheries of salmon and halibut along our coastline,” the joint letter says.

“In addition, to recreational fishing, U.S. visitors are able to enjoy our wilderness, beaches, hiking and biking trails, mountain biking, kayaking, and a whole host of recreational activities. Our waters are home to resident orcas, migrating grey whales, and many other marine mammals, birds and sea life.”

The core communities in Greater Victoria – Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay and the West Shore – are embroiled in a multi-million-dollar sewage treatment controversy.

The issue has been ongoing for more than 20 years, and it’s only been the last few weeks the Capital Regional District board has named its top options for sewage treatment.

Sooke, Port Renfrew, Central Saanich and North Saanich (including Sidney and the Psatsartlit) operate their own sewage treatment facilities separate from what is proposed for Victoria.

Washington state officials are concerned with the untreated sewage flowing into the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Victoria, and now the Washington state Senate is considering travel restrictions to Victoria for state workers.

“We’re just saying to Washington don’t put us under the same umbrella as Victoria,” Kasper said.

“I don’t want to see a negative impact on our tourism-related opportunities and not have Americans come [to Sooke] because they don’t think we have a proper sewage system.”

The letter also says that local politicians understand Washington’s concern and are following waste water treatment for the City of Victoria with interest.

“The City of Victoria, Province of British Columbia and Government of Canada have demonstrated their commitment to bringing waste water treatment to Victoria and we are confident that this will be resolved in a timely way.”

The letter was sent to northern Washington municipalities, state legislators and newspapers.