Feds announce $338,000 to help Semiahmoo First Nation improve water

Minister says $42.7 million will benefit 33 First Nation communities in B.C.

Semiahmoo First Nation is one of 33 communities the federal government will help with funding for water infrastructure, according to an announcement Friday.

Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, in an event at Semiahmoo Park, said $338,000 will go toward the design of a new water-distribution and wastewater sewer system for Semiahmoo First Nation.

Bennett said of projects in B.C. to receive a share of $42.7 million, four address long-term drinking water advisories.

The Semiahmoo First Nation has been on a boil-water advisory since 2005.

The projects funded are at the feasibility, design or construction stage.

Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell confirmed to Peace Arch News that the design work is a first step toward connecting to Surrey through a new servicing agreement, replacing the current connection with White Rock, which he understands is still due to terminate in February of 2018.

“We are currently at 99 per cent of the redesign and we are working with our neighbouring municipalities,” he said.

He said that concluding the design work is a necessary step toward securing funding for the actual connection work, but that SFN is anticipating a “sizable commitment” to this funding on a regional level.

He also thanked INAC for assisting with discussions with the City of Surrey.

Bennett said that the federal contribution to SFN’s water infrastructure is unusual among First Nations projects requiring federal help, in that it involves hooking up to a municipal service, rather than a well.

“But hooking up to a municipal service allows for fire hydrants and the potential for new subdivision, and allows for a comprehensive plan for the vision of that community,” she said.

SFN councillor Joanne Charles, in presenting Bennett with a ceremonial blanket to honour the “historic” occasion, noted this is the first time that a minister from INAC (or its predecessors) has paid a visit to the First Nation.

Other B.C. First Nations currently dealing with long-term water advisories are Bonaparte, Stellat’en First Nation, T’it’q’et, Tl’azten Nation, Wet’suwet’en and the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government.

More to come…

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