FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Northern Health says that it is working to ease the backlog of pending water main construction permits from the City of Fort St. John that grew after the health authority’s engineer left earlier this year.
Fort St. John’s General Manager of Integrated Services, Victor Shopland, explained that any time the City installs or replaces a water main, it must apply for a permit with Northern Health.
The application is reviewed by the health authority’s engineer, who looks at such things as the main’s separation from sanitary or storm sewers, and ensures that the correct processes are laid out in the construction plans.
Northern Health spokesperson Andrew Palmer said that the engineer position, which is based in Prince George, has been open since the spring and will remain open until filled by a qualified applicant.
She said that recruitment for the engineer position is ongoing, though all health authorities in B.C. consider the position “difficult to fill” since it is a professional engineer position.
Palmer explained that Northern Health has been collaborating with other professional engineering services and other health authorities, using their engineers to help fill the gap and get projects approved.
Despite this, approvals since the departure of the engineer have slowed. Shopland said that the City received approval for only one project – the water and sewer replacement along 92a St. – in the spring.
In a post on his Facebook page last week, councillor Byron Stewart stated that City Council stressed to Northern Health that the current outsourcing meant that the limited time devoted to the City’s files created a serious backlog in construction projects in town.
Palmer said that due to the backlog in permits, Northern Health has resorted to employing external contractors and prioritizing outstanding permits in order to get permits reviewed as quickly as possible.
“Review and approval processes specific to Fort St. John are now underway,” she added.
Shopland said that this week, the City received approval for several water main projects: on 111th Ave. north of C.M. Finch School, 113th Ave. at 103rd St., and 77th Ave. at 90th St.
He added that the only project awaiting approval from the health authority is the Local Area Service extension to the Tahltan Road, though he said that project had only recently been approved by Council.