Contributed photo Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner sign servicing agreements Monday for water and sanitary sewer connections.

Semiahmoo First Nation to have safe drinking water

‘Historic’ agreements aim to have water, sanitary sewer in place for SFN by early 2019

Semiahmoo First Nation could have potable water – something they haven’t had in more than a decade – as early as next spring, after signing a pair of servicing agreements with the City of Surrey Monday.

The agreements, signed at Surrey’s council meeting, also mean sanitary-sewer infrastructure and water for fire protection for the first time in the nation’s history.

“It’s huge – it’s monumental,” SFN Chief Harley Chappell told Peace Arch News Tuesday. “Our late uncle, Grand Chief Bernard Charles, started the process of negotiating a connection with the City of Surrey in the mid-1970s, so it’s taken us almost 40 years to get to this point. It’s historic for us.

“It’s been a long road, but I’m glad and honoured to be part of it. A lot of work has been done in building relationships, building connections and bridges.”

Mayor Linda Hepner described the agreements as “an example of the City of Surrey taking tangible steps to help a neighbour in need.”

Chappell said Hepner was “obviously a huge part of this,” noting that Surrey’s transportation and infrastructure committee chair, Coun. Tom Gill was “instrumental in expediting” the agreements.

Chappell added that having a servicing connection is “an integral part of the puzzle,” particularly in gaining a commitment for future infrastructure funding from Indigenous Services Canada for water and sewer services.

“For a while there we were playing a cat-and-mouse game – the City didn’t want to commit to servicing without the ISC funding and ISC didn’t want to commit without the city servicing,” he said.

Chappell added the ultimate funding required from Ottawa is still being determined, dependent on engineering requirements, but he is hopeful that ground can be broken by late fall of this year, with first connections in place, in a best-case scenario, by the early spring of next year.

Chappell said a short-term agreement is in place for White Rock to continue to provide water to the western end of SFN lands outside of the “community core” (including the Semiahmoo Park area) until the end of 2019.

Steps towards the agreements were prompted by an August 2016 notice to the band from the City of White Rock, advising that the band’s water supply would be terminated “within… 18 months.”

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin later described the termination as a “possible outcome… if we can’t come to some sort of negotiated agreement (surrounding the provision of services) that makes sense.”

Band councillor Joanne Charles and then-chief Willard Cook appealed to the City of Surrey for an emergency connection to that city’s network the following month.

At an October 2016 meeting of Surrey’s transportation and infrastructure committee, city staff confirmed that there was capacity to serve the SFN’s water needs, but that expanding such a connection to serve future growth on the reserve would be “a whole other exercise.”

READ MORE: Groundwork laid for Semiahmoo First Nation water connection

“We don’t believe we have the capacity to provide service for future growth without some sort of improvements to our system,” city utilities manager Jeff Arason told the committee at the time.

Water-quality issues that have plagued the land since 1995 would also not be resolved by switching the reserve’s water supply, Arason noted.

Arason identified challenges including servicing the commercial property on the western end of the band’s land, due to its distance from the connection.

As well, if growth is planned, Surrey would need to upgrade its own system to accommodate that, he said.

A Municipal Type Service Agreement for the provision of storm water, water and sanitary was to come to council “in due course,” Arason told PAN following the meeting, adding that once agreements were negotiated, a water-service connection would take four to six weeks.

In June 2017, the SFN was announced as among 33 communities that would be receiving federal funding to assist with water infrastructure.

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

The $338,000 was to go toward the design of a new water-distribution and wastewater sewer system. Chappell confirmed at that time that the design work was a first step toward connecting to Surrey.

A news released issued by the SFN following Monday’s signing notes that “significant construction” will be required to replace the existing infrastructure.

According to a City of Surrey corporate report, the water and sanitary sewer proposed is to meet the day-to-day needs of up to 450 people, and “it is expected that SFN will be in a position to connect to the city’s systems sometime in late 2018 or early 2019.”

The servicing agreements were proposed for five-year terms, and to remain in force for four successive five-year periods “if the SFN duly and regularly pays the rates, sums and charges provided in each agreement and performs each and every covenant and proviso set out.”

They may be terminated after the first term by either party with one-year’s notice.

– with files from Tracy Holmes

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell and band councillor Joanne Charles at Surrey council Monday evening. (Contributed photo)

Just Posted

Patricia Celan, named Miss Charity seven years ago while a teen living in South Surrey, is now in postgraduate psychiatry training and was recently named Mrs. Canada International 2021. (Contributed photos)
Domestic-violence awareness a focus for former White Rock woman named Mrs. Canada International

Patricia Celan, in postgraduate psychiatry training, earned her first crown in 2013

Kristjon Olson in a photo released by Surrey RCMP.
High-risk offender back in custody facing child-porn charges, Surrey Mounties say

News of Kristjon Otto Olson’s arrest is posted to Surrey RCMP’s website

The peninsula’s Community Christmas Day Dinner at White Rock Baptist Church – seen here in 2019 – has been cancelled for 2020, because of pandemic-inspired limitations on gatherings. (File photo)
Annual Community Christmas dinner ‘just not possible’ this year

Organizers vow that 40 years-plus Semiahmoo Peninsula tradition will return, post-COVID

Sources volunteers face off at the organization’s ‘Enchanted’ gala – one as a fairy and the other as her magic-mirror reflection – held in 2019. (Tiffany Kwong photo)
‘Rising infections’ prompts move to virtual Sources gala

Silent auction, raffle opens to public at 9 a.m. Oct. 30

Sooke’s Paul Larouche enjoys gold panning along the Sooke River, looking for small treasures. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Island man finds niche audience by gold-panning on YouTube

Paul Larouche, 29, with over 215,000 subscribers, opens up about his journey

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

CBSA. (Black Press Media File)
4 sentenced in B.C. steroid smuggling, distribution ring that spilled into U.S.

Canadian Border Services Agency announced the results of a lengthy investigation it called ‘Project Trajectory’

Search and Rescue Technicians carry a stretcher to the CH149 Cormorant during a 442 Squadron Search and Rescue Exercise in Tofino on February 28. (Photo by: Cpl Joey Beaudin, 19 Wing Imaging, Comox)
Father and son found dead after weeklong search near Pemberton

The father and son had set out for a day of mushroom picking last Thursday

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A full moon rises over Mt. Cheam on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Rare full moon, Daylight Saving makes for a uniquely spooky Halloween – despite COVID-19

We can’t host costume parties but this weekend is still one for the history books

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Photo courtesy of Correctional Service of Canada.
Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder escapes Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Most Read