Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee thinks the shovels could be in the ground by next spring.
Lee just returned from meetings in Ottawa with federal Environment Minister Peter Kent, Senator Mike Duffy, Island MP Gail Shea and the senior policy adviser to the minister of infrastructure.
The topic was separating Charlottetown's storm water from its sanitary water.
The city has long experienced problems when heavy rains overwhelm the lift station behind the Queen Charlotte Armouries causing effluent to spill into the historic Hillsborough River. That, in turn, shuts down shellfishing in the area.
Lee's message to federal officials was that the city is prepared to move now.
"We are looking to begin the project this coming spring, as soon as the weather allows us into the ground,'' Lee said Monday.
"We are most anxious to begin the tendering process and that, at this point, the only thing holding us back is a commitment from the Government of Canada for one-third of the capital funding.''
The project is expected to take three to four years to complete and cost anywhere from $18 million to $24 million, depending on how long it takes to do. The city has about 12 kilometres of left to upgrade.
Lee said he feels the federal government is serious about getting the project going very soon.
Environment Canada made that point very clear early last month when it issued an order, telling the city it had to act. Charlottetown is the only municipality to receive such an order this year.
"That clearly indicates how serious this situation is in their view and that everyone agrees that it's a situation that needs to be corrected and everyone has agreed that they will begin immediately the process of attempting to locate funding to assist the city in its efforts.
"Honestly, I think we have a group of people who are prepared, in all sincerity to try and find a way to become a partner to getting this project underway.''
When asked if he was optimistic an announcement could be made soon, Lee said he wouldn't have made the trip to Ottawa otherwise.
"I would be very surprised and extremely disappointed should the Government of Canada basically turn their back on this project.''
If overflow problems continue much longer, the mayor foresees doing irreparable damage to the shellfishery's reputation.
Lee said he has been working closely with the shellfish association and aquaculture alliance and all are on the same page.
"Everyone is saying this needs to be corrected.''
"Once funding is in place I will be asking the engineers to consider the concept of breaking this project up into smaller tenders . . . maybe we can get it done before year three or year four . . . the sooner we can start and finish, the better it's going to be for everyone.''
Over the past decade, the city has invested more than $30 million into sanitary systems in addition to sinking millions of dollars into expanding the treatment plant on Riverside Drive.