Semiahmoo First Nation is in the process of removing what appears to be hundreds of trees from reserve property.
Several piles of cut trees were laid out at the corner of Beach Road and Highway 99 Wednesday morning.
A spokesperson for SFN told Peace Arch News Wednesday morning that the trees were being removed for an “infrastructure project,” but would neither confirm nor deny whether the project is related to a servicing agreement between SFN and the City of Surrey.
However, after PAN published an article about the trees being removed, SFN Chief Harley Chappell confirmed via Facebook that the work is pre-work for water/sewer infrastructure, which is scheduled to break ground within the next few months.
“Trees are removed prior to March 1st to ensure bird nesting window is protected,” Chappell wrote.
Last Summer, Chappell and then-Surrey mayor Linda Hepner signed an agreement which could result in connection to sanitary-sewer infrastructure and water for fire protection for the first time in the nation’s history.
“It’s huge – it’s monumental,” Chappell told PAN in July. “Our late uncle, Grand Chief Bernard Charles, started the process of negotiating a connection with 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.”
In July, Hepner described the agreement as “an example of the City of Surrey taking tangible steps to help a neighbour in need.”
It was estimated that the first connection could be in place, best-case scenario, by early spring this year.
Last year, Chappell said a short-term agreement was 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.”
Then-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.”
In June 2017, the SFN was announced as one of 33 communities that would be receiving federal funding to assist with water infrastructure.