The Semiahmoo First Nation says the City of White Rock has given them 18 months to secure a new water supply.
According to a news release issued by the band Wednesday and received by Peace Arch News just before press time Thursday morning, the city gave the unexplained notice on Aug. 29, “causing the Nation to panic.”
“After further exploration, the Se-mi-ah-ma (The People) were informed that the process to secure a new supply typically takes up to three years,” the release states.
Band and city officials – who purchased the area’s water supply from Epcor a year ago, for an as-yet-undisclosed price – could not be reached for comment at press time.
Water issues have plagued the Semiahmoo reserve since 1995, according to the release. Residents are not on a municipal sewage system, and have been operating under a permanent boil-water advisory since 2005.
“Currently, Semiahmoo First Nation is one of only a few First Nations in the region without access to clean running water or adequate sanitary sewer servicing,” the release states.
Band councillor Joanne Charles said in the release that the Semiahmoo have “for generations… been working towards true economic independence with the goal of charting our own economic and social destiny.
“Constitutionally, we are entitled to this, and we simply want what our neighbouring communities already have and have enjoyed for decades.”
It’s unclear if the water-supply notice is related to a decision by White Rock council last spring to formalize its relationship with the band.
In May, council adopted a staff recommendation that advocated action on issues including negotiating a service agreement for the bulk water supply and sanitary sewer services currently provided to SFN.
At that time, city manager Dan Bottrill said he felt both parties have “a good working relationship.”
“We’ve never had an agreement with them for sanitary sewer service and now that we have taken on water services, having a service agreement for both facilities makes a lot of sense to me,” he said.
According to the release, the Semiahmoo reserve began receiving its current water supply in 1970, when the utility was operated by White Rock Utilities Ltd.