Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell and councillor Joanne Charles lead a prayer prior to the June 2017 announcement of federal funding to support the design of a new water-distribution and wastewater sewer system in Semiahmoo First Nation. (File photo)

Surrey, SFN to sign water-network agreement

Deal comes two years after SFN receives service-termination notice from White Rock

The City of Surrey and Semiahmoo First Nation are expected to sign an agreement Monday for the city to provide water and sanitary sewer service to the SFN – nearly two years after notice of service termination from the City of White Rock prompted the band to make an emergency appeal to connect to Surrey’s network.

READ MORE: White Rock plans to shut off our water supply: First Nation

READ MORE: Semiahmoo First Nation appeals to Surrey for water

Neither Chief Harley Chappell or councillor Joanne Charles were available to comment on the pending agreement Thursday.

Steps towards it 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.”

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 a 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-servince 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.

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