Superintendent Luke Nicholas of Insituform oversees a cured in-place pipe liner (trenchless) on Hampshire Road, one of the ongoing sub-ground upgrades in Oak Bay. A robot goes through the pipe and cuts services to the houses during the operation. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Work to replace Oak Bay sewer, storm pipes underway

Rebuilding Oak Bay one pipe at a time

The work to replace Oak Bay’s sub-ground infrastructure continued this week both on the streets and in municipal hall as Oak Bay posted a detailed explanation behind the projected 8.05 per cent tax increase.

Council will sit for their fourth budget deliberation on March 12 and will focus on the remaining capital projects.

It includes $7.6 million in 2020 towards the funding for municipal assets, such as buildings and roads, as well as the aforementioned sub-ground infrastructure.

READ MORE: Development changes won’t cover Oak Bay’s looming infrastructure costs

It’s been four years since Oak Bay engineering officially deemed the replacement of sewer, water and stormwater drainage pipes as priorities to be addressed as soon as possible and work is now underway. A crew from Insituform is steadily working its way through Oak Bay, one section at a time from manhole cover to manhole cover. Insituform install cured in-place pipe, a trenchless process that uses a camera, a robot, and a lot of steam and hot water to install a new lining inside the old pipes. The lining lasts 50 years and costs about a third what a conventional replacement costs.

Oak Bay is refitting about four kilometres of sewer pipe with trenchless lining this year.

In total, Oak Bay has approximately 100 kilometres of sanitary sewer pipes, 115 km of water mains and 140 km of storm drainage.

“We have a combination of this trenchless (pipe lining) work as well as some conventional rehabilitation work planned for the year,” said Dan Horan, director of engineering. “The cured-in-place pipe lining work that is currently underway will be about $850,000.”

READ ALSO: 2017: Aging infrastructure a major concern for Oak Bay

All told, Oak Bay has approximately $820,000 of storm sewer main work and approximately $871,000 sanitary sewer main capital work scheduled for this year, Horan said. It’s a combination of 2020 funds and 2019 funds carried forward into this year.

“We have a pretty good idea of the total cost to replace the sewer, water and storm [drainage], and we’ve broken it down to a dollar per year amount,” said Mayor Kevin Murdoch. “We are trying to get to a point where we are fully funding all of our capital needs in perpetuity.”

That amount is $9.2 million annually towards the renewal and maintenance of all municipal assets.

It started with a $5.6 million shortfall in 2017 to a shortfall of just $1,660,000 in 2020. Before that, Oak Bay was funding just 40 per cent of what its annual infrastructure replacement costs have become. It’s a good chunk of the budget increase that is currently projected at 8.05 per cent (subject to approval), which averages out to $242 per year per Oak Bay household.

The five-year average tax increase under the current plan is 4.94 per cent.

“The problem with underfunding is you spend more on repeated repairs instead of replacing the assets,” Murdoch said.

That said, Oak Bay has four staff members at Public Works who focus at least part of their work on preventative maintenance, Murdoch added.

The Uplands sewer and storm drain separation project, (Uplands’ houses discharge storm and sewage into the same lines) is another priority as it is required with the new Capital Regional District $775 million wastewater treatment project. Oak Bay has applied for a federal grant to help cover the costs of the project that will construct about five km of new storm drainage in the Uplands neighbourhood. The existing 8.2 km of combined sewers and storm drains will be converted as sanitary sewers.

Among the municipal asset replacement projects in line for after the sub-ground pipe replacements are the roads and, eventually, the Oak Bay Fire Station. Oak Bay’s 105-kilometre paved road network is in decline, as witnessed with last month’s sinkhole on Lansdowne Road. Council is interested in the Oak Bay Fire Department’s temporary storage proposal that could put off the replacement of the fire hall.

The draft proposal for the 2020-2024 financial plan is now online at

and council invites public feedback through the email

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