The City of Surrey has voted to help the Semiahmoo First Nation get clean water.
According to an SFN news release Thursday, city council voted unanimously July 24 to negotiate a servicing agreement with the band, with a focus on water and sewer infrastructure.
“This is a positive first step,” SFN Chief Harley Chappell said. “By negotiating in good faith with the City of Surrey, I’m optimistic we can reach an agreement that improves the well-being for our nation’s people.”
City staff recommends the city develop other service agreements to support future development on SFN lands, the release noted.
Water-quality issues have plagued the reserve since 1995; those on the existing water supply have been under a permanent boil-water advisory since 2005.
The band appealed to Surrey for “an emergency connection” last September, following notice that the City of White Rock’s water supply to the lands would be terminated “within… 18 months” – which White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin later said was only a possibility.
In Thursday’s release, band councillor Joanne Charles said her community was “very upset” by the termination notice.
“With the City of Surrey’s support we can all breathe easier knowing our basic need for water and sewer services can be resolved,” Charles said.
In October of last year, Surrey’s utilities manager Jeff Arason told Peace Arch News that staff were developing a draft Municipal Type Service Agreement for the provision of storm water, water and sanitary sewer to the SFN. Once such agreements are negotiated, a water-service connection would take four to six weeks, he said.
In June, SFN was among 33 First Nation communities named to receive federal funding to help with water infrastructure. The band’s share totalled $338,000.