After four years, a failed annexation attempt, a First Nations lawsuit and an international ruling, CentrePort Canada is finally getting water.
The planned industrial hub will be serviced by a new $45-million water-treatment plant to be built in Headingley over the next two years. Heritage Minister Shelly Glover announced $12.1 million in federal infrastructure funding Wednesday, the first batch of cash to be doled out from the new Building Canada Fund. The plant and the pipes will also serve Stony Mountain penitentiary, which is expanding and needs water, so the Correctional Service of Canada is chipping in $2.4 million.
CentrePort's lack of proper water and sewer services has stymied progress on a federal-provincial promise to turn 8,000 hectares of largely vacant land straddling Winnipeg and the RM of Rosser into a hub of new industrial activity that leverages nearby rail, highway and airport infrastructure.
Already, $212 million has been spent building a new freeway, CentrePort Canada Way, through the land. But wooing big companies was stalled by years of uncertainty and wrangling over the water supply.
Originally, after Rosser shunned the city's proposal to annex part of the rural municipality, the city agreed to extend water and sewer services to CentrePort. But two First Nations near Winnipeg's water source at Shoal Lake, Ont., balked, saying the city had no right to sell water to neighbouring municipalities and the plan violated the terms of a century-old agreement. A preliminary ruling by the International Joint Commission, which handles water disputes, sided with the First Nations.
Instead, CentrePort decided to pump water from the Assiniboine River, which came with the need to build a new water plant.
The cost of the plant, 20 kilometres of pipe and a pumphouse and reservoir will be split three ways between Ottawa, the province and the Cartier Regional Water Co-op, which serves Rosser, Headingley and five other municipalities.
Roughly 2,000 homes now on wells will also be connected to the water supply.
Asked whether the expanded water service will spur additional residential growth outside the city limits, Rosser Reeve Frances Smee said that's unlikely in her RM. The lines won't go where development is planned in Rosser.
Municipal Government Minister Stan Struthers, on hand for Wednesday's funding announcement, said it remains to be seen whether new pipes and expanded treatment capacity will spur exurban growth. Rural municipalities will deal with proposed development as they always have.
Cartier Reeve Roland Rasmussen said the water co-op's only treatment plant in St. Eustache was running near capacity and the co-op would have had to consider expansion options in the next couple of years anyway. That CentrePort's immediate needs helped the region secure millions in capital funding was a welcome bit of good timing.