It was a small group gathering at Beach Road and Highway 99 on Friday (Dec. 18) – and the weather was wet, cold and blustery.
But that didn’t dampen the excitement that members of Semiahmoo First Nation, ranging from children to seniors, felt in observing a historic step forward.
As John Boros, of City of Surrey water operations, turned two underground roadside taps – one for potable water and one for emergency services – the rumbling activation of mains marked the completion of a long-awaited connection between SFN and the Surrey water supply.
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And while that doesn’t mean that residents can immediately turn on a tap for the water – Semiahmoo councillor Joanne Charles noted it will be probably three months before water pressure is properly tested, sanitary sewer work is complete and every residence is connected – the activation of the mains is a crucial first step.
The $10 million infrastructure project is partly funded by a grant from Indigenous Services Canada, and Chief Harley Chappell paid tribute to them, the City of Surrey, engineering consultants Aplin and Martin, and former MP Gordon Hogg – one of the onlookers – who has long championed the cause.
The SFN has been on a boil water advisory since 2005 – and intermittently before then, dating back to 1996 – and the precarious nature of its supply was highlighted in 2016 when the the City of White Rock gave the nation 18 months notice that its limited water service to the lands would be terminated.
Friday’s ceremony marked a milestone in the water service agreements SFN reached with Surrey in 2018.
“So many pieces of the puzzle had to come together for this to happen, and we appreciate all of you here for your good work,” Chappell said, while noting that a reliable supply of water had been a dream for generations of SFN residents.
“In the big scheme of things, something like this may seem like a small step, but for us, it’s a momentous occasion,” he said.