CRD looks into making local beaches safer

Plus, City Hall flood, DCCs to fund water projects, Philharmonic Fling, and more

Good morning! 

With the long weekend behind us and students officially on summer break, plenty of people have been spending time enjoying our local beaches and lakes. With so many people looking to go swimming, the CRD wants to make these areas safer for visitors by adding more safety equipment. Read all about it, and more, in today’s edition of the newsletter. 


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CRD ponders pilot project: safety equipment on area beaches

The main beach at Thetis Lake Regional Park. Photo: Flickr

The Capital Regional District will consider a pilot project to increase safety at two area beaches, but the plan doesn’t call for lifeguards.

CRD staff, on June 26, recommended equipping the main beach at Thetis Lake and Hamsterly Beach at Elk Lake with personal floatation devices (PFDs) and life rings to assist anyone struggling in the water. With the BC Coroners Service releasing a report last week showing that the number of drownings on the Island had more than doubled in 2023, the discussion has been an important part in citizen safety. 

“I feel that safety at area beaches is good but there are ‘risk takers’ that create an element of concern and more education and awareness should help,” said Judy Brownoff, CRD board member and parks committee vice-chair.

“One of my fellow directors mentioned he used to jump off [the] cliff at Thetis and would not do it now. I remember doing that with my Irish Setter and swimming to the island, I too would not do that today … more aware of danger under the water!”

Brownoff said she agrees with Island Health when it says it’s not one particular strategy, but a combination that would best limit the number of water tragedies in the region. 

If the CRD board approves the motion for safety equipment at the beach, it would have rings and PFDs covered but of its 18 regional parks with fresh and saltwater swimming, not one has a lifeguard. The CRD discontinued lifeguard services at its regional parks in 2003, citing costs, challenges in recruiting qualified lifeguards, and the overall trend among municipalities and other park agencies to lose the lifeguards. CRD staff asked 20 BC regional districts about water safety, and of the 18 that responded, none—except for a community park in Cowichan Valley—had lifeguards in place.

The CRD quotes the Lifesaving Society's estimate that it could cost approximately $270K per beach to staff lifeguards from May through September or $1.35M for lifeguards on the region’s five busiest beaches. "Currently, there are no funds in the 2024 or 2025 budget that would cover this service," a CRD staffing report said.

The June 26 recommendation for safety equipment was not related to the release of the BC Coroners report, said Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson who sits on the CRD’s parks committee. He said the committee had been discussing beach safety back in November. “It had nothing to do with the recent tragedy. It just is the unfortunate timing,” he said.

That recent tragedy involved a 17-year-old who was unconscious when pulled from Langford Lake on June 15. Keron ‘Dequan’ McKay died four days later in hospital.

Thetis Lake itself has been a danger for drowning for years. In 2023, two people nearly drowned in May but were saved, and on Aug. 12 of the same year,  a 49-year-old-woman drowned. Just months after, in October, RCMP announced the death of an international student who had sank in a portion of the lake that dropped-off quickly. 


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Langford City Hall still closed to public after ‘significant flooding’

Langford City Hall. Photo: James MacDonald / Capital Daily

A pipe in the attic above the third floor burst in Langford’s City Hall early on the evening of June 26, sending water cascading and flooding all three floors.

“I can tell you that the areas in City Hall that are affected are significantly affected,” said Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson.

A large section of the building at 877 Goldstream was damaged, the city said, including three privately owned units and businesses.

Goodmanson said Langford Fire responded to an alarm around 5:30pm but found no fire, only a lot of water—and more spewing from the ruptured pipe. The flooding was so severe, he said, that firefighters could hardly open an office door to get to the source. They also had to pull a toilet to drain the water.

“City Hall is open, but not to the public,” Goodmanson said. “The actual work of the city is continuing—it's just that front-counter service that is not in operation.” Goodmanson could not say how long he thought it would take to repair the damage.

The finance, administration, and planning departments were the most severely affected, and were closed on June 27, the city said. Some staffers were working from home or elsewhere off-site.

While the flood has affected City Hall, residents are still expected to pay their property taxes, which remain due today, July 2. In an update, Langford has accommodated residents and is allowing them to pay in a number of different ways. Residents can either pay their property taxes in person by visiting a temporary office space on the ground floor of 877 Goldstream Ave., or they can pay online, through their bank, through credit card, through mail, or via after hours drop-off. 

Residents can keep up to date on closures and flood status on the city’s website or on their Facebook page.


CRD to roll out its cost program for capital upgrades

Capital Regional District at 625 Fisgard St. Photo: Google Maps

The CRD is moving to implement a Regional Water Supply (RWS) Development Cost Charge (DCC) program to help fund its eligible growth-related water projects with a total price tag of $2 billion. 

DCCs are fees collected by municipalities and regional districts from new developments to fund off-site infrastructure needed for growth. They help cover costs for roads, sewer trunks, waterworks, drainage works, and more.

There is currently no such system in place here. However, the DCC program for the RWS was outlined in the CRD’s RWS 2017 Strategic Plan and in its 2023-2026 Corporate Plan. The RWS 2022 Master Plan identifies approximately $2 billion in capital upgrades over the next 30 years. Each project within the master plan will require individual approval from impacted municipalities.

“The cost for all of these projects as a whole are paid through the larger regional water supply capital plan, which is a collective and operates as a single system,” said Alicia Fraser, the CRD’s integrated water services general manager. “Those rates are provided based on per built unit and those rates are calculated by number of total units and size. Those developments that are not on CRD water would not be impacted by those projects.”

There are other project sub-costs to which DCCs apply. Those include planning, public consultation, engineering design, right of way, land acquisition, interim debt financing, contract administration, construction, contingencies, and legal review of projects. 

Each of the CRD’s 13 member municipalities (which includes View Royal, Colwood, Langford, Highlands, Metchosin, and Sooke) and portions of the Juan de Fuca Electoral Area where CRD water services are available will be included in the RWS DCC program. 

The CRD anticipates the adoption of DCCs early next year. Projects affected could include the Sooke Lake Reservoir Deep Northern Intake, the Leech Watershed, the proposed Goldstream Water filtration plant, and the Smith Hill storage tank. 

Around the 'Shore

🏳️‍🌈 Middle school Pride crosswalk vandalized again: Spencer Middle School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized twice last week, marking the fourth incident since its completion on Feb. 15 when the crosswalk was vandalized with tire marks and red paint. Police have footage of the incidents, and are looking for any information on the suspects. [Times Colonist

🪧 No ban on Esquimalt election signs: Esquimalt council denied a motion to ban election signs on public property. The motion was originally proposed by councillor Ken Armour in anticipation of the provincial election in October, who cited aesthetic and environmental reasons for the motion. [Vancouver Island Free Daily

🍔 Fatburger reopens in Langford: Fatburger Langford just reopened its doors on June 22 after a fire destroyed the restaurant in November 2023. This is one of three Greater Victoria Fatburger locations, and the owner is excited to see residents back enjoying their food. [Victoria News]

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Community Events

♟️ Chess club: Looking to learn more about chess? Head to the Sooke Library this July 4 for chess club to meet fellow chess fans. Going from 7:30 to 8:45pm, this event is open to all levels and ages. Chess club happens every third Thursday of the month. 

🎶 Philharmonic Fling: Enjoy an afternoon of live music in Ed Macgregor Park this July 7 for the Sooke Philharmonic Fling. This free annual outdoor concert will be conducted by Michael Klazek, and will be a performance with a variety of musical hits. 

🌿 Greater Victoria Green Team: Join the Greater Victoria Green Team this July 7 for their invasive species removal at Murray’s Pond Park in Colwood. Going from 9:45am to 1pm, anyone is free to come out and meet new people while cleaning up. Those 18 and under will need permission from an adult.

What’s Offshore?

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Westshore Snaps

Ocean spray aplenty. —Glenys Pumfrey, Colwood

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